VFX Voice Winter 2022

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VFXVOICE.COM WINTER 2022

Visual Effects Society® 25 T H A N N I V E R SA RY

MOONFALL MYSTERIES

SPECIAL VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY SECTION • VFX OSCAR CONTENDERS • THE WITCHER VFX OUTLOOK FOR 2022 • THE WHEEL OF TIME • PROFILES: LYNWEN BRENNAN & RANDALL COOK


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[ EXECUTIVE NOTE ]

Welcome to the January 2022 issue of VFX Voice! This month we embark on a historic year for the Visual Effects Society as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary! From our inception in late 1996 to a thriving global honorary Society – now with more than 4,000 members in 40-plus countries – it is our pleasure to serve and lift up this dynamic, talented and resilient community. Reaching our Silver Anniversary is a momentous occasion, but there’s more. This year, the VES will hold our 20th Annual VES Awards, induct our 5th annual class of VES Hall of Fame honorees and we’ll raise a glass to five years since we launched our signature magazine VFX Voice. All year long, VFX Voice will mark this special time in our legacy, so consider this publication a commemorative keepsake. Read on in this issue to hear reflections from us both – in a feature story capturing insights from the six volunteer leaders who have served as Board Chair – and a conversation with the VES Executive Director. We highlight major milestones in our 25-year journey, and have found a way to recognize each and every VES member from around the world, because you are our greatest strength and source of pride, so take a bow! Thank you for your continued and enthusiastic support of VFX Voice, which gives us the opportunity to keep shining a light on outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation worldwide, and marvel at the creative talent who never cease to inspire us all. VFX Voice is proud to be the definitive authority of all things VFX. Now turn the page and meet the visionaries and risk-takers who push the boundaries of what’s possible and advance the craft of visual effects. And please continue to catch exclusive stories between issues only available at VFXVoice.com. You can also get VFX Voice and VES updates by following us on Twitter at @VFXSociety. Cheers!

Lisa Cooke, Chair, VES Board of Directors

Eric Roth, VES Executive Director

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[ CONTENTS ] FEATURES 8 FILM: THE VFX OSCAR Previewing hot prospects for this year’s award.

VFXVOICE.COM

DEPARTMENTS 2 EXECUTIVE NOTE 106 VES SECTION SPOTLIGHT: MONTREAL

14 VFX TRENDS: ROUNDTABLE The key creative role of in-house art departments. 26 PROFILE: LYNWEN BRENNAN Lucasfilm leader keeps a keen eye on the future. 34 COVER: MOONFALL Director Roland Emmerich delivers a collision for the ages. 42 VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY: VIEW FROM THE TOP Q&A with VES Executive Director Eric Roth.

108 THE VES HANDBOOK 110 VES NEWS 112 FINAL FRAME – MOONFALL

ON THE COVER: A scene from Moonfall. (Image courtesy of Lionsgate and Centropolis Entertainment)

44 VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY: ROUNDTABLE Past and present VES Board Chairs share their VES histories. 50 VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY: MILESTONES Twenty-five years of VES achievements and highlights. 52 VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY: OUR MEMBERSHIP A salute to today’s global VES membership. 62 PROFILE: RANDALL COOK Oscar winner’s career spans the ascent of visual effects. 72 VFX TRENDS: VFX OUTLOOK 2022 A boom time for studios, streamers and the VFX business. 82 TV/STREAMING: THE WITCHER The VFX team doubles down on details for Season 2. 92 ANIMATION: A NEW ERA Combining VFX with animation serves high content demand. 98 TV/STREAMING: THE WHEEL OF TIME Building a new fantasy world from the ground up – that lasts.

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WINTER 2022 • VOL. 6, NO. 1

WINNER OF THREE FOLIO AWARDS FOR PUBLISHING EXCELLENCE.

VFXVOICE

Visit us online at vfxvoice.com PUBLISHER Jim McCullaugh publisher@vfxvoice.com

VISUAL EFFECTS SOCIETY Eric Roth, Executive Director VES BOARD OF DIRECTORS

EDITOR Ed Ochs editor@vfxvoice.com CREATIVE Alpanian Design Group alan@alpanian.com ADVERTISING Arlene Hansen Arlene-VFX@outlook.com SUPERVISOR Nancy Ward CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Adam Eisenberg Ian Failes Naomi Goldman Trevor Hogg Chris McGowan ADVISORY COMMITTEE David Bloom Andrew Bly Rob Bredow Mike Chambers, VES Lisa Cooke Neil Corbould, VES Irena Cronin Paul Debevec, VES Debbie Denise Karen Dufilho Paul Franklin David Johnson, VES Jim Morris, VES Dennis Muren, ASC, VES Sam Nicholson, ASC Lori H. Schwartz Eric Roth

OFFICERS Lisa Cooke, Chair Emma Clifton Perry, 1st Vice Chair David Tanaka, 2nd Vice Chair Jeffrey A. Okun, VES, Treasurer Gavin Graham, Secretary DIRECTORS Jan Adamczyk, Neishaw Ali, Laurie Blavin Kathryn Brillhart, Nicolas Casanova Bob Coleman, Dayne Cowan, Kim Davidson Camille Eden, Michael Fink, VES Dennis Hoffman, Thomas Knop, Kim Lavery, VES Brooke Lyndon-Stanford, Josselin Mahot Tim McGovern, Karen Murphy Janet Muswell Hamilton, VES, Maggie Oh Susan O’Neal, Jim Rygiel, Lisa Sepp-Wilson Bill Villarreal, Joe Weidenbach Susan Zwerman, VES ALTERNATES Colin Campbell, Himanshu Gandhi, Bryan Grill Arnon Manor, David Valentin, Philipp Wolf Visual Effects Society 5805 Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 620 Sherman Oaks, CA 91411 Phone: (818) 981-7861 visualeffectssociety.com VES STAFF Nancy Ward, Program & Development Director Jim Sullivan, Director of Operations Ben Schneider, Director of Membership Services Jeff Casper, Manager of Media & Graphics Colleen Kelly, Office Manager Debbie McBeth, Global Coordinator Shannon Carmona, Administrative Assistant P.J. Schumacher, Controller Naomi Goldman, Public Relations

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VFX Voice is published quarterly by the Visual Effects Society. Subscriptions: U.S. $50: Canada/Mexico $60; all other countries $70 a year. See vfxvoice.com Advertising: Rate card upon request from publisher@vfxvoice.com or VFXVoiceAds@gmail.com Comments: Write us at comments@vfxvoice.com Postmaster: Send address change to VES, 5805 Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 620, Sherman Oaks, CA 91411. Copyright © 2022 The Visual Effects Society. Printed in the U.S.A.

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THE VFX OSCAR – FOR IMAGERY TRANSCENDING A TIME OF TURBULENCE By TREVOR HOGG

TOP: Special effects team lead Gerd Nefzer created 300 palm leaves that were later engulfed in flames for a brief scene in Dune. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures) BOTTOM: The only James Bond outings to receive Oscar nominations for Best Visual Effects were Thunderball and Moonraker, with No Time to Die looking to add to the total. (Image courtesy of EON Productions, United Artists Releasing and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios)

An action adventure about rival fishermen was the first to be acknowledged for outstanding achievement in creating Special Photographic and Sound Effects. The legacy started by Spawn of the North (1938) at the 10th Academy Awards would later see the two different crafts be given their own separate categories with Emil Kosa Jr. receiving the Best Special Visual Effects Award for Cleopatra at the 36th Academy Awards. A sign of what was to come occurred in 1979 when five rather than the usual three nominees vied for the renamed Best Visual Effects Award with two being the first installments of major cinematic franchises: Alien (the winner) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Five nominees became the standard when Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb took center stage at the Kodak Theatre for Inception. The past three winners First Man (2018), 1917 (2019) and Tenet (2020) have been rewarded for their ability to seamlessly blend practical and digital effects rather than being pure CG spectacle. As for what to expect at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022 predictions have been complicated by theatrical release dates being like moving targets with an expected nominee Top Gun: Maverick being jettisoned to 2022 while Venom: Let There be Carnage was moved up a couple of weeks. The only certainty is uncertainty. So here, after consulting a number of industry experts to get even a faint pulse of what might happen when the nominees are announced on February 8 are the best guesses for best effects. One has to wonder what would have happened if Ridley Scott had not left the original production of Dune for family reasons and been replaced by David Lynch. But then Blade Runner would not have come into existence. Serving as a bridge between ‘what if’ and what actually happened is Denis Villeneuve, who directed the sequel Blade Runner 2049, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 2017, and got to make his teenage aspiration of re-directing Dune a reality. The story revolves around a spice with supernatural properties, blue-eyed desert inhabitants, giant sandworms, insectoid vehicles, a manipulative galactic empire

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and a messiah. There is a possibility that only covering half of the first book, as well as aspects of the narrative making their way into Star Wars, might work against the production. However, the term ‘visionary’ is not used haphazardly when describing Villeneuve, who is able to create epic worlds that do not overshadow the trials and tribulations of the characters. His emphasis on naturalism, which is built upon real locations and sets that are digitally augmented, will avoid the campy and outdated effects that plagued Lynch, and pave the way to Oscar glory for a second time. What are going to be the contenders that could possibly usurp House Atreides? Marvel Studios has made a heroic effort with the Phase 4 release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals. Marvel Studios President and COO Kevin Feige has a developed reputation for what are seen to be risky projects that turn out to be box office gold with the prime example being Guardians of the Galaxy, which received one of the 10 Oscar nominations for the MCU when it comes to visual effects; however, the comic book empire that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko built has yet to see that translated into a win. Shang-Chi features Destin Daniel Cretton utilizing the crowd-pleasing bar-brawling of Captain America with the iconic Vibranium shield replaced by magical bracelets. The fight choreography is elevated by paying homage to the death-defying Hong Kong action films that pride themselves on showmanship. Much has been said about the bus and scaffolding fights that embody the mischievous spirit and determination of Jackie Chan, which is a welcomed addition to the MCU. As for Eternals, Chloé Zhao follows the Villeneuve philosophy of naturalism and the avoidance of vibrant, saturated colors. She is essentially dealing with celestial beings echoing the Gods of Olympus, with the major exception being that their view of the world comes from ground-level rather than a mountaintop. Also, banking on the popularity of comic book adaptations is Sony Pictures which has partnered with Marvel Studios on Spider-Man: No Way Home (2018) and gone solo with Venom:

TOP TO BOTTOM: Jason Reitman follows in the paranormal footsteps of his father, Ivan Reitman, in bringing Ghostbusters: Afterlife to the big screen. (Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures) Not surprisingly, epic visuals were created for the rematch between iconic kaiju in Godzilla vs. Kong. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures) Jungle Cruise channels the African Queen via Pirates of the Caribbean, which was also inspired by a theme park ride. (Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

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FILM

TOP TO BOTTOM: By taking cues from Hong Kong martial arts films, the fight sequences in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings rise above what has been seen before in the MCU. (Image courtesy of Marvel Studios) Doctor Strange brings some of his magic to Spider-Man: No Way Home, such as summoning the astral form of Peter Parker. (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures) Symbiotes reign supreme with serial killer Cletus Kasady making a pact with the main adversary in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. (Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures) A dream becomes a reality as Steven Spielberg finally gets to make a musical with his remake of West Side Story. (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios and Walt Disney Studios)

Let There be Carnage. For the sheer fun factor and nostalgia appeal, the edge has to be given to the quick-witted Web Slinger from New York City. If Jon Watts can capture even half of the innovative and narrative craftmanship exhibited in the Oscarwinning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, that will go a long way to satisfying the masses and Academy voters. Just the thought of the various cinematic incarnations of Peter Parker and his adversaries appearing together for the first time is enough to spark giggles of glee, but is also a recipe for utter disaster like Spider-Man 3 which was riddled with the ‘way too many characters’ syndrome despite being directed Sam Raimi. For the adult crowd craving an R rating rather than a PG13, have no fear as the symbiote that debuted in Spider-Man 3 has gained enough popularity to warrant the Venom sequel directed by Andy Serkis. The true act of wizardry has been the ability to create the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dynamic without obscuring the performance of Tom Hardy as a mild-mannered investigative journalist having to share his body with an aggressive and perpetually hungry alien parasite. Undoubtedly, the blood and gore factor will be upped as a serial killer portrayed by Woody Harrelson gets infected and fully embraces the opportunity to greatly increase his sociopathic mayhem. Godzilla vs. Kong, Jungle Cruise and The Suicide Squad would make an interesting threesome battle. The safe bet would be Adam Wingard’s rematch between the iconic Kaiju that became a cultural institution in Japan and later to the entire world. Interestingly, the original King Kong (1933) sparked the discussion about establishing a visual effects award with producer David O. Selznick petitioning the Academy Board of Governors to recognize the groundbreaking work of animator Willis O’Brien. It is a testimony to how far the digital technology has matured that a project like this required no major pipeline overhaul and the artists could focus more on crafting the performances of the creatures. Jungle Cruise by Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra takes place in an African Queen setting and mixes together the Oscar-winning effects of Life of Pi and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest by bringing to life a photorealistic leopard and living-dead buccaneers. When it comes to The Suicide Squad, what is there not to love about Sylvester Stallone voicing a giant shark that is an aquatic manifestation of Rocky Balboa with a much lower IQ and treats his opponents as edible snacks? James Gunn has done a great job in the past of integrating CG characters into the principal cast, in particular a monosyllabic anthropomorphic tree. Considering the harsh critical reaction to the two sequels, it is hard to imagine Lana Wachowski returning to the franchise that launched her blockbuster career, unlike her sister Lilly who decided to take the blue pill this time around. The Matrix was lauded with an Oscar, while Reloaded (2003) and Revolutions (2003) were not even nominated despite being a training ground for a lot of the top visual effects talent in the industry today. The Matrix Resurrections brings Neo and Trinity back to life by having Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss return to their signature roles. The storytelling ambitions of the Wachowskis always

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FILM

TOP TO BOTTOM: James Gunn is no stranger when it comes to incorporating CG characters into the principal cast, such as the monosyllabic King Shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone in The Suicide Squad. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros.) David Lowery deserves credit for re-imagining an Arthurian legend on an independent budget that features a talking fox, walking giants and a defiant tree adversary in The Green Knight. (Image courtesy of A24)

go way beyond the realm of what is physically possible, which means that Reeves and Moss will be surrounded and supported by boundary-pushing technology. Another franchise revival has become a family affair as Jason Reitman follows in the footsteps of his father, Ivan Reitman, with the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Homages have been woven into visuals with miniature rather than skyscraper-sized Stay Puft Marshmallow Men making an appearance along with Slimer, an ominous thunderstorm, and the station wagon emblazoned with the Ghostbusters logo. Despite the supernatural premise, both Reitmans use visual effects to heighten the dramatic and comedic situations that reveal something about their characters. Visual effects are not only found in the action and science fiction genres as they assisted Steven Spielberg in fulfilling his ambition of shooting a musical with his remake of the West Side Story; the closest for him previously was the opening sequence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). There will be no digital doubles or massive explosions to be simulated, but expect invisible environmental work to get the necessary size and scope that will enhance the already gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. For the outlier that might surprise everybody, David Lowery took the time during the pandemic lockdown to re-edit The Green Knight and added another 60 visual effects shots. The work consists of a talking fox, a tree-like adversary, wandering giants and fantastical landscapes done with an indie budget. That in itself is a major feat worth celebrating.

Defying their AI overlords, Neo and Trinity resurface once again in The Matrix Resurrections. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

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HOW INTERNAL ART DEPARTMENTS HELP TO SHAPE THE VFX STORY

We regularly hear about the incredible artistry inside visual effects studios to pull off final shots. But a key step in the VFX component not always discussed is the intricate concept, design and visualization processes carried out within visual effects studios, which often helps shape the particular story being told. In this roundtable discussion, representatives from Framestore, ILM, Pixomondo, Scanline VFX, Technicolor Creative Studios, TRIXTER and Weta Digital break down their role in this storyshaping process, especially within their internal art departments.

By IAN FAILES THE PROCESS BEGINS

Daniel Matthews, Concept Artist, TRIXTER: “We will get our very first brief via our internal supervisor on a project, who distills a short, open ‘TL;DR’ version of what’s been discussed with the client. This minimal brief helps us to keep our creativity totally free-flowing, and allows us to cast the widest net possible for ideas. It gives us the freedom to mess up – which is a fantastic thing as an artist – and get bad ideas out of our system. It allows us to brainstorm and build on each other’s ideas as a team. At this stage, ‘happy little accidents’ can happen which often work their way into the final result.”

TOP: A Framestore concept frame for Blade Runner 2049. (Image courtesy of Framestore. Copyright © 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures)

Mujia Liao, Head of Virtual Art Department/Art Director, Pixomondo Toronto: “Generally, we create mood boards, sketches, illustrations and key art frames that describe a particular moment in the show to help drive the direction for other departments to follow. Aside from creating designs from scratch, we collaborate closely with the asset department. We create paint-overs on renders for quick design changes, mocking up texture/color variations, as well as provide reference photography to help the asset team look dev the character/creature/ environment.”

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James Clyne, Senior Visual Effects Art Director, ILM: “I don’t think there is a part of the production pipeline that ILM’s art department doesn’t touch. The department is involved in ‘blue sky’ conceptual designs, working directly with the director or with the production designer, sometimes just with the studio. Then we’re involved in everything from character design to vehicle design, prop design, environments and creatures. I think VFX has also allowed filmmakers to make some of the design decisions a little later because we can actually tackle some of those design decisions in post-production like we couldn’t before.” Martin Macrae, Head of Art Department, Framestore: “As well as designing for projects internally, we’re also able to work independently on projects that don’t necessarily come through the company’s VFX team. Another part of what we do is to help directors put a pitch package together for studio presentations to help get a film greenlit. This will involve discussions with the director to try and establish their vision for the film, taking extracts from early drafts of the script, if there’s one ready, and creating concept art for film beats that evoke the right look and feel for key scenes in the story.” Leandre Lagrange, Art Director, Technicolor Creative Studios: “We often get pulled in for greenlighting a project. At that point there is no VFX involved at all. Either we’re being reached out to by studios or we already have a VFX supervisor attached to the project who invites us to create images as a pitch to do the final shots. There are lots of different roles we play.” Jelmer Boskma, Visual Effects Supervisor and Art Director, Scanline VFX: “There have been projects where we were involved early enough to help establish the look and influence the shoot in a way that complemented our ideas and designs wonderfully. Obviously, this is particularly beneficial to us as we can ensure the

TOP TO BOTTOM: Mujia Liao carried out matte painting work on a hollow-like planet in Star Trek Discovery. (Image courtesy of Pixomondo. Copyright © 2020 CBS Television Studios) A ship and plan design illustration crafted by Scanline VFX for Midway. (Image courtesy of Scanline VFX. Copyright © 2019 Lionsgate Ltd.) A scene from Prometheus in which the art and the final matte painting work melded into one. (Image courtesy of Technicolor Creative Studios. Copyright © 2012 20th Century Fox)

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VFX TRENDS

lighting and general shot setups will translate well later in post. Just as common, though, is for our design services to be requested at a later stage during production. It’s not uncommon for a director to have a change of heart with regards to a certain design, or to find the production’s art department to have simply ran out of time to fully flesh out an idea.” Sidney Kombo-Kintombo, Animation Supervisor, Weta Digital: “I’m an animation supervisor, but I do lots of previs as well now. It’s even sometimes previs at the end, in the post-production process. It can be previs, postvis and shots all melded into one thing. For example, Marvel always comes up a very strong concept of what they want – ‘Let’s have a dogfight in a canyon.’ They’ll have superstrong art development. But then the missing link is the connection between that strong concept design art and the thrill of the visual. It’s basically taking the strong concept that already exists and adding all the little elements that make that concept visually as interesting as it can be.” TOOLS OF THE TRADE

TOP TO BOTTOM: Rodan emerges from a volcano in a concept piece by Technicolor Creative Studios. (Image courtesy of Technicolor Creative Studios. Copyright © 2019 Warner Bros. Pictures) TRIXTER crafted its artwork over Black Widow plate photography. (Image courtesy of TRIXTER. Copyright © 2021 Marvel) The final reveal, in TRIXTER concept form, for this Black Widow scene. (Image courtesy of TRIXTER. Copyright © 2021 Marvel)

James Clyne, ILM: “There are many applications that we use. I would say Photoshop is probably the most dominant, but there’s a lot of 3D applications from Maya to Modo that people are using every day. The strength lies in not just being really good at one thing, but being pretty proficient at not only 2D drawing, but 3D model modelling as well, and being able to do rapid sketching, all the way up to doing photorealistic environments.” Martin Macrae, Framestore: “It’s a very organic process, every project is done in its own unique way with no set ways to get things

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VFX TRENDS

done. Artists can use whatever means they need to get an idea out, be it a pencil sketch or a 3D sketch – it doesn’t really matter what tools they use. Concept artists need to be flexible in the way they work as the creative idea is the most important thing to get out, so they have access to any software they need to use. When it comes to software the trend now seems to be Photoshop and Blender, but, again, anything goes.” Daniel Matthews, TRIXTER: “Some of my colleagues like to explore 3D with Blender or ZBrush, or even using 3D fractals like Mandelbulbs as a base for their concept art. However, I prefer to start out with free-flow using Photoshop and sketches, which sometimes allows happy accidents to occur. If I want to explore 3D, it’s usually with cool software called 3D Coat.” Jelmer Boskma, Scanline VFX: “Some artists are more comfortable working in 3D and are able to provide high quality iterations in a highly economic manner that way. Others rely more on their traditional drawing and painting skills to communicate ideas. Certain tasks call for a specific approach, but, in general, whatever gets the job done well in a quick and organized manner wins. Whether that is through painting in Photoshop, sculpting in ZBrush, photo-bashing, a rough 3D render, a mock-up in SketchUp, or most commonly a combination of all of the above.”

TOP TO BOTTOM: ILM’s James Clyne designed this bomber for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (Image courtesy of ILM. Copyright © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.) For Spider-Man: Far From Home, Scanline helped establish the smokey look of Mysterio’s suit. (Image courtesy of Scanline VFX. Copyright © 2019 Sony Pictures) The futuristic, and heavily polluted, Las Vegas in Blade Runner 2049 as imagined by Framestore. (Image courtesy of Framestore. Copyright © 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures)

Leandre Lagrange, Technicolor: “We do create a lot of FX simulations with 3D tools such as Blender and Vectron to give us a base to work from. With painting skills and photo-manipulations, there’s quite a lot that you can do for concepting those. It’s preferable not to have a Houdini artist go into it on their own and start shooting in the dark because it’s very time consuming and it’s so heavy. The idea is we’re giving them a look and feel and some direction, and then they can work with that. As it goes on, they can create more and more accurate FX simulations based on the images that we create. We have a close relationship with VFX artists for that type of complex FX work.”

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VFX TRENDS

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo, Weta Digital: “I storyboard a lot. I always try to have a really quick visual sketch of what I’m after. So Photoshop is a big part of it, just like any concept artist will do. But right after that it’s straight into Maya [for previs or postvis]. The best way to make sure that you’re not going to hit any hiccups is to make sure that you are doing this in the software package that will be used ultimately for the shots.” KEY PROJECTS, KEY CHALLENGES

Daniel Matthews, TRIXTER: “The photostatic veil in Black Widow stayed in the refinement stage for a long time. As they say, 20% of the work takes 80% of the time. We had a rough idea of the look we were aiming for, but of course we wanted to make something new, exciting and as good as possible. The idea was to make this mask look like one of those peel-off self-care masks, with the ability to make the wearer look like someone else entirely. There was also the matter of finding the right shapes. In the end, we settled for the hexagon pattern, which fans say is a shape that features heavily in the Marvel Universe. We definitely get it – hexagons look great, have a futuristic tech-y feel and fit together neatly.”

TOP TO BOTTOM: Digital matte painting by Mujia Liao for the jawa camp in an episode of The Mandalorian. (Image courtesy of Pixomondo. Copyright © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd.) Concept by Mujia Liao for Midway. (Image courtesy of Pixomondo. Copyright © 2019 Lionsgate Ltd.) A development frame by Framestore for Pan. (Image courtesy of Framestore. Copyright © 2015 Warner Bros. Pictures)

Jelmer Boskma, Scanline VFX: “We worked on designs for Mysterio’s smokey FX appearance in Spider-Man: Far From Home. We provided concept illustrations in which we tried to capture the look and feel of the effect as much as possible within the constraints of a still image. For FX like these, illustrations only provide part of the solution. Much of the final design is based on the motion, timing and behavior of the simulation. We find that approaching design challenges like this from multiple angles is essential to finding the answer for a director. As a general principle, we like to instill as much real-world reference and logic into any design to give the idea a grounding in reality.” Sidney Kombo-Kintombo, Weta Digital: “On the canyon chase in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we tried to see what we could

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VFX TRENDS

change in the original design of the canyon to make that a more thrilling experience. The first thing I do is go to dogfight reference – Star Wars comes to mind, and Japanese anime. We say, ‘How can we make this interesting?’ I try to come up with the idea for the sequence first and then the environment that makes that idea shine. We rebuilt the canyon from scratch. We did that in the animation department. Usually, the build comes out of modeling and layout, but here it was more a rough model of blocks of rocks done in the animation stage. Animation then passed it back to modeling who adjusted it. It’s a different way of creating the same type of work.” Leandre Lagrange, Technicolor: “For Prometheus, some of our pieces of artwork were actually concepted by an artist who had a digital matte painting (DMP) background. So, they would actually end up being projected and used in the final VFX shots in the film. Then on Godzilla: King of the Monsters, for example, we worked on an image of Rodan emerging from a volcano. For that we used a design that was already done by Amalgamated Dynamics. We used their design and then built on top of that to make an image. That was more about making a key frame.”

TOP: A sunken boat dining room concept by Scanline VFX for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Image courtesy of Scanline VFX. Copyright © 2016 20th Century Fox) BOTTOM: An ILM concept for one of the conquistador characters in Jungle Cruise. (Image courtesy of ILM. Copyright © 2021 Walt Disney Pictures)

Mujia Liao, Pixomondo: “On The Mandalorian, we worked on several environments on the planet of Arvala-7, a very barren, desert-like planet covered in wet mud, home to creatures like the iconic Blurrgs. I turned to what I knew best and ended up matte painting the looks we needed for approval. We looked closely at a large number of deserts and found some good images of Atacama Desert after rainfall, although none really provided us with the level of detail we needed. Our CG Supervisor, Winrik Haentjens, then came across this area in Toronto’s Scarborough Bluffs with snow that was just starting to melt, creating these streams that flowed across a muddy surface, giving us some beautiful natural-looking erosion shapes. We took lots of photos of that area and created photogrammetry of the details, and that became the foundation to the closeup areas of Arvala.”

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VFX TRENDS

A New Dawn in the VFX Art Department The rise of virtual production has introduced many changes to the way visual effects studios operate. LED volume and stage work in particular require some of the final pixel VFX shot work to be carried out upfront – before shooting – rather than traditionally in post. This means that some production companies and visual effects studios have now launched virtual art departments, or VADs. For example, Weta Digital established a VAD-like department out of work on Avatar and Tintin, with a formal VAD on The BFG, while Lucasfilm and ILM ramped up a VAD with The Mandalorian. Other studios such as Pixomondo have followed suit. “With the same emphasis in visual development and pre-production, the VAD focuses on not only design but creation of real-time assets from initial lookdev to production-ready models and environments for virtual production,” details Mujia Liao, Head of Virtual Art Department/Art Director at Pixomondo Toronto. “We process practical scans and create custom assets to block out initial environments, allowing our clients to do virtual scouts and pre-light early on. In addition to the preliminary environment build, the VAD will also supply close to final key visuals by over-painting and hand-off design packages including photographic references and mood boards. This design package and early environment build sets a solid foundation for our virtual production and VFX teams to take further into fully realized worlds.”

TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: Martin Macrae, Head of Art Department, Framestore Mujia Liao, Head of Virtual Art Department/Art Director, Pixomondo Toronto Jelmer Boskma, Visual Effects Supervisor/Art Director, Scanline VFX Leandre Lagrange, Head of Art Department, Technicolor Creative Studios Sidney Kombo-Kintombo, Animation Supervisor, Weta Digital Daniel Matthews, Concept Artist, TRIXTER James Clyne, Senior Visual Effects Art Director, ILM

Martin Macrae, Framestore: “Blade Runner 2049 was a definite highlight for all of us. For Vegas, we worked initially from designs coming from the production designer and Syd Mead sketches, and working closely with VFX we set to work designing everything from large buildings right down to street-level details, also designing the spinner drone that flew over the city – everything was thought out. We generated hundreds of sketches, paintings and 3D models, all with the purpose to help finalize a look for this sequence so the Montreal team could generate the final shots. As an art department we worked on Blade Runner for over a year and loved every second of it!” James Clyne, ILM: “On The Last Jedi we had to design this bomber. We were asking ourselves, what is a Star Wars bomber? How does that work in space? I started developing something that had a vertical bomb bay rather than a typical horizontal one. The director, Rian Johnson, said, ‘I like the idea, but you’re going to have to really show me that it works.’ So we went back to the drawing board and did drawings and models of it. It was story driving the design rather than the design driving the story. Through discussions and weeks and weeks building out what this could be, it became what you saw in the movie, which was amazing.”

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LYNWEN BRENNAN: KEEPING LUCASFILM AT THE FOREFRONT OF ENTERTAINMENT By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Lynwen Brennan and Lucasfilm. TOP: Lynwen Brennan, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Lucasfilm. OPPOSITE TOP TO BOTTOM: Brennan with ILM leadership team Hal Hickel and John Knoll posing with the Oscars and VES Awards won by ILM. Brennan with the Marvel Studios leadership team of Victoria Alonso, Peyton Reed, Kevin Feige and Joe Russo. Brennan is interviewed by Andi Gutierrez of The Star Wars Show during the 2019 “Star Wars Celebration” in Chicago.

Looking at the responsibilities of Lucasfilm Executive Vice President & General Manager Lynwen Brennan, which involves overseeing Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound, one could imagine her head spinning around in bewilderment, but via Zoom she has a ready smile and good sense of humor. “Sometimes it does feel like that! I have an amazing team that helps to keep me on track.” San Francisco is half a world away from Tenby, Wales where Brennan was the youngest of three born to two school teachers. “It’s as far away from Heathrow Airport as you could possibly get on that island. Everybody knows everybody. My childhood was spent either in the harbor, on the beach or on a boat. My dad was a larger-than-life personality. I got my drive and values of being respectful and interested in other people from him. My mum was definitely the organizer and her work ethic is a thing to behold even now at the age of 84.” Music rather than movies had a big influence on the family. “My sister and niece are music teachers,” states Brennan, who is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. “Those experiences of playing in orchestras and being involved in a team at such an early age, having those social experiences and having that self-motivation to do your part and practice were hugely important. I play the piano every day. It was the first instrument that I learned. I played the violin and viola in the orchestra, which I still play but not well.” Tenby had one cinema that has since closed down. “I was a [Girl Guide] Brownie when my father took us to see Jaws. Bear in mind I was in a coastal town and spent my whole life on a boat. I was terrified to go into the sea or to even have a bath for ages afterwards! That was the first one I remember going to see. Watching movies became a social thing with friends. When there was a good movie on terrestrial TV, we would get together to watch it. When we were able to get VHS tapes, I watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Grease over and over again. Then I got into wanting to actually understand more about movies and what I should be watching, like Casablanca and Citizen Kane.” Her career path to the movie industry was paved by accidents. “I did biology and geography at the University of London and specialized more on the ecology side,” remarks Brennan. “I was interested in the history behind human behavior and how that leads to either sustainable land use practices or environmental damage. I had intended to take a year off after university and return to do a Masters or PhD or go into law. The week after I graduated, I went to a local theme park with some friends and fell off of a rollercoaster. It took me about a year to learn how to walk again. In that time my brother, who had been working in broadcast television graphics, had an idea to do some software for film visual effects. He was thinking about setting up Parallax Software and asked me if I would help him. There were only five us in the beginning. I was doing everything from hiring people, payroll, customer support, marketing, public relations, office management to sales. About nine months later, we went to our first tradeshow and Doug Smythe at ILM was looking for the type of paint and roto software that we had created, called Matador. ILM was our first customer and Jurassic Park was the first film that they used it on.

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I remember sitting in the theater, seeing that Brontosaurus walk onto the screen, and thinking, ‘This is what I’m going to do, and I’m going to work at ILM one day.’” Parallax Software was sold to Avid Technology in 1995. “I stayed there for two years and was then asked to work for Alias Wavefront for a period of time,” recalls Brennan. “Cliff Plumer, who had worked at Parallax with us, was at ILM and called me about an entry level job and asked if I wanted to assist them to gear up for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. I thought, ‘I’ll do that for six months and then go back to the U.K.’ That was 22 years ago and I’m still here. Much has and hasn’t changed, which is the way we like it at ILM. I started as a Technical Area Leader for the Computer Graphics Technical Directors. A lot of the time then was hiring artists and figuring out how to scale the crewing systems that we had to handle multiple shows at one time. As things began consolidating, growing and requiring efficiency within the way that we ran the computer graphics side of things, I organically absorbed new responsibilities. I worked my way through the entire pipeline. Eventually, while I was on maternity leave, Chrissie England told me that she was intending to retire and would like me to take on the presidency [of ILM]. I would have a nice ramp in to learn the ropes from her, and she was generous with her contacts and training me on how to work with clients to get their visions on the screen.” A radical shift had to be made to the business model of ILM as global tax incentives as high as 40% became important in attracting clients. “We grew our Singapore office, pivoted away from games and animation, and focused that team on full pipeline visual effects,” explains Brennan. “This was right around the time of the acquisition by Disney, and George Lucas brought Kathleen

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PROFILE

TOP TO BOTTOM: The Tech Building of Skywalker Sound, located at Skywalker Ranch in Lucas Valley, near Nicasio, California. The Perfect Storm was a project that nearly brought ILM to its knees. The advancements in digital effects have come along way from Star Wars, which was entirely optical, to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which features CG spaceships.

Kennedy in. We were going to make movies again, and wherever shooting was taking place we had to make sure that ILM had a studio there. We expanded into London, Vancouver and more recently to Sydney. That was a huge shift from a management perspective to figure out how do you scale as a global company and keep the DNA that is ILM, but also allow those studios to have a unique character. How do you share work across shots, sequences or shows between studios in different time zones? Also, how do we keep our San Francisco studio feeling energized that its not their jobs going away, and when we’re saying that we are committed to staying in California, we really mean it. San Francisco is as big now as it was then. The part that hasn’t changed is the spirit of loving impossible things, and we’ll figure it out together. John Knoll always says, ‘A good idea is always a good idea no matter where it comes from.’ That is the mantra of ILM. I love that constant striving to push the envelope and to do better. There is never a sense that we know it all, and you can sit back and rest on your laurels.” “Everybody in visual effects knows that it is not an easy business to run and stay profitable,” observes Brennan. “You have to have a clear vision of what is your North Star. We want to be putting images on the screen that delight audiences and enthuse our clients. We want to be delivering to our directors things that are even better than what they had already imagined. We also want to be looking for work that isn’t just what we’ve done over and over again. We do 15 projects at one time right now, so not everything is something that we haven’t done before, but there is probably an element of it in everything that we do. I will often say when we

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PROFILE

TOP TO BOTTOM: A scene from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Brennan’s first job at ILM was as a Technical Area Leader for the Computer Graphics Technical Directors. Brennan joined ILM as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was about to begin production. The gamble of relying on StageCraft paid off for the production of The Mandalorian.

have taken on something that is hard and the financials are looking scary, ‘Remember why we took it on.’ You’re looking ahead of what you’re going to need, what the problems are, trying to solve them in advance, and you move things around in the company as you need to. We have amazing producers who are making sure that we are focusing the resources on where the problems are going to be. Also try to minimize the amount of time that you waste. If we have a full pipeline, there is a lot of leeway in terms of efficiency. If you don’t have a full pipeline, then you lose money very quickly over the year.” Brennan is fascinated by the Music and Sound Design Lab that Skywalker Sound does in partnership with the Sundance Institute. “One of the things I love about Skywalker Sound is when they take a scene and do different takes on the audio, whether that be different editing or mix or music, and how you feel differently depending on what the sound choices are made; it brings to the forefront how important sound is. Lucasfilm’s films and series are places where sound have shone, and have been celebrated and noticed by the general audience.” Skywalker Sound works on 200 projects each year. “Some of the tools have changed and the ability to work remotely as freelancers. Not everything has to be done on a big mix stage; that has enabled some expansion and democratization of the sound industry. But when you go to Skywalker Sound there is so much that hasn’t changed. It is so much about collaboration and experimentation.” Everything is done holistically from the storytelling to business decisions. “We think about what stories we are going to tell on all of these different platforms,” remarks Brennan. “Assets from ILM, our console games and ILMxLAB live in a central platform so there

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PROFILE

TOP: The Jedi known as F summons the Force in Star Wars: Visions episode “The Village Bride,” animated by Kinema Citrus. MIDDLE: Brennan is responsible for marketing the various franchises of Lucasfilm, which includes establishing a creative partnership with anime studios to produce Star Wars: Visions. BOTTOM LEFT: Grogu becoming the breakout star on The Mandalorian was immensely satisfying for Brennan. BOTTOM RIGHT: A huge moment for Brennan was the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

is a playbox that we can work with. Utilizing game and real-time technology, whether that would be Unreal Engine in combination with our own real-time engine Helios, we use the best tool for the job. Because virtual production demands for us to push the envelope in terms of the visual fidelity and the interactivity that is needed to move the camera and manipulate in real-time, it has helped us to be able to think beyond that and how entertainment might evolve. “I’m excited about where the future could go,” she continues. “Having various platforms to tell nuanced and targeted stories for different audiences and genres opens up the playfield so widely. Then also our job is to be good stewards of that so that we open it up in a thoughtful way. There is variety, but it’s not confusing, overwhelming or too much. The quality always has to stay high, which is Kathleen Kennedy’s mantra. The fact that we also have Skywalker Sound, ILM and ILMxLAB means that we have this creative community within Lucasfilm that we can bring to bear for our directors.” Several career highlights stand out for different reasons. “I still remember that moment of walking through the door,” recalls Brennan. “Of my years at ILM, the projects that I remember are the ones which were really hard because we were doing something new and difficult. The Perfect Storm nearly brought us to our knees! You come out of that with this amazing sense of commandry. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was definitely a huge moment to be part of. The Mandalorian was another one of those moments. When we went all in on StageCraft, we didn’t know if it was going to work. Then to see how the series was embraced. Seeing Dave Filoni do live-action directing was a wonderful highlight as well. Even the decisions around Grogu, where we were part of a secret and couldn’t wait for the audience to see him. He went so beyond what we had hoped. There are so many highlights. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my career and the people I work with.”

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CAPTURING A COLOSSAL CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE LUNAR KIND IN MOONFALL By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Lionsgate and Centropolis Entertainment. TOP: Director Roland Emmerich on the set of Moonfall. (Photo: Reiner Bajo/Lionsgate) OPPOSITE TOP: The Endeavour space shuttle encounters debris as it approaches the surface of the Moon. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: The Endeavour space shuttle docks at the International Space Station.

Whether it be an alien invasion in Independence Day, a raging Kaiju in Godzilla or the environmental catastrophe of The Day After Tomorrow, German filmmaker Roland Emmerich has gained a reputation of being able to destroy the world in creative ways. The cinematic tradition is carried over into Moonfall where a mysterious force knocks our lunar neighbor out of orbit and on a collision course with Earth. It is up to NASA executive Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) to save the day, and in the process of doing so they make a surprising cosmic discovery. Reuniting the team behind Midway, which includes Production Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli (The Space Between Us), Visual Effects Supervisor Peter G. Travers (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Special Effects Supervisor Guillaume Murray (Crisis), Emmerich has crafted a $140-million independently-funded action-adventure with a cerebral twist. A different global disaster occurred during pre-production in Montreal as the pandemic caused the project to temporarily shutdown. “When I prepared the movie, I had 74 days to shoot, but then I had to figure out what to cut out to be able to afford the COVID-19 costs of $6.5 million,” states Emmerich. “For an independent film, you can’t go to a bank and ask for more money. I ended up with 61 shooting days. There were no compromises. I just shot faster.” Re-igniting the public imagination and interest in outer space is the emergence of space tourism. “NASA read the script and supported us,” says Emmerich. “It took us three or four years to get the script right because it’s such an out-there story and we needed

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to give it some reality. I read a book called Who Built the Moon? by Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, and thought, ‘Maybe there’s a movie here.’ We made our own series. If you only do a story about the Moon falling down to Earth, that is a disaster movie. We wanted to do something deeper and more exciting than that.” Even though Moonfall has been described by Emmerich as being a mix of 2012 and Independence Day, a cinematic classic from Stanley Kubrick casts a long shadow. “2001: A Space Odyssey is a seminal movie because it was not only a science fiction film, but also about the origins of life. In that perspective, Moonfall is closely connected to 2001,” Emmerich comments. “I knew by 2022 that nobody would go to the Moon. We figured that the space shuttles would get pulled out of a museum and, within a crazy time schedule, be put back together and sent up there. We thought about what problems that they could have, and that was a cool factor to make this realistic.” The spectacle has to be balanced with the human aspect, he observes. “The biggest problem for any movie that has spectacle is figuring out how much character can you infuse and how much character do people want to have? I’ve been battling with this all of my life! You try to be true to the characters, and we got good actors involved like Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, Donald Sutherland, Michael Peña and John Bradley. Halle would say, ‘I wouldn’t say that line.’ Then you have discussions about it, and most of the time something better comes out of it. The cast worked with us to make this real.” Sets had to be redesigned to accommodate COVID-19 protocols dealing with social distancing. “For instance, in the spacecraft, the chairs had to be four feet away from each other, whereas normally

“Moonfall has 1,700 visual effects shots. You have to plan exactly what you want to do, because visual effects companies are already working on these shots while you’re shooting the movie. It is like a dance, but because I’ve been doing this for 40 years I’ve gotten good at it.” —Roland Emmerich, Director

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COVER

“If you only do a story about the Moon falling down to Earth, that is a disaster movie. We wanted to do something deeper and more exciting than that.” —Roland Emmerich, Director

TOP TO BOTTOM: As part of the emergency response the space shuttle is recommissioned and retrofitted.

I would have them tighter together,” states Petruccelli. “Roland set into motion every nuance and dynamic that had to be enacted. 135 sets were built on six stages at Grandé Studios in Montreal as well as on a couple of filler stages at MELS Studios. Four to five sets were shot each day. Every set was specifically crafted with the visual effects team in mind. Roland thinks far beyond the physical structure. It all has to integrate with the post-production process. He is masterful at that.” Parts of Colorado had to be recreated onstage because location shooting was minimal. “We had to come in and know when we could use one section of the stage, move it to another section, and rotate pieces of it away to create another set,” says Petruccelli. “There were dedicated stages to space travel that were clean environments. We had to rebuild several locations in Los Angeles, including the planetarium, because everything was so dependent on atmospherics that would occur with the visual effects.” Designs were based on reality and physics. “Roland loves the fact that truth and reality set us apart from pure fantasy and sci-fi,” remarks Petruccelli. “Things that occur in space are in a vacuum, while things on Earth are being manipulated by the forces that the Moon bears if this [catastrophic event] should happen.” Sets had to be designed to accommodate the physics, he says. “If you’re in a motel in Santa Monica, we had to be west-facing because the water would be coastal. We had to calculate how the water would impact the set, and integrate the volume of water with a bigger event. We talked to experts at NASA about what was the actual load capacity of the space shuttle.” A museum in Florida supplied an original space shuttle cockpit. “We made it usable for us to do the weightless scenes,” enthuses Emmerich. “That was some of the most complicated stuff that we did in the whole movie, because when you sit in a tight set interesting decisions have to be made on how to do it.” The shooting methodology has evolved for Emmerich. “I’m not doing much floor effects anymore because I know later in visual effects you can do them much better,” he says. “For example, if you have snow flurries I only shoot with wind and leave the rest to visual effects.” Special effects still have an on-set presence. “Roland has clear ideas about how he wants to do things and make them work on-set and onscreen,” states Guillaume Murray. “That gives us the right tools to polish those mechanical effects for him. It has to be quick, efficient and easy to re-set. Most of the rigs that we do are modeled in 3D. The printing aspect will be used for prop building. CNC machines are utilized for all of the mechanical parts.” Motion control systems assisted with the zero gravity effects, Murray adds. “We built a robot and used motion control that allowed us to puppeteer actors or stunt people in the shot, and do it in a way where we didn’t need to stop and program every move on set. “The Moon being out of alignment created the need for a lot of mechanical effects for the scenes on Earth,” continues Murray. “We had lots of people, cars and tents flying in every direction. There were a lot of body shells to avoid the cables that would cross faces. The majority of the practical elements were captured during the shoot.” Two space vehicles were fabricated with the art

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COVER

“Roland loves the fact that truth and reality set us apart from pure fantasy and sci-fi. Things that occur in space are in a vacuum, while things on Earth are being manipulated by the forces that the Moon bears if this should happen.” —Kirk M. Petruccelli, Production Designer

TOP: DNEG and Framestore looked after space while Earth was handled by Scanline VFX and Pixomondo. BOTTOM: Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) stands before a misplaced Chrysler Building from New York City.

department, Murray adds. “Those set pieces were placed on tilt rigs so we could bring them up to 45 degrees for take-off scenes, and there were shaky motors to get everything shaking inside. The largest rig that we built was a tsunami. We had a 45-foot-high tip tank with two tanks each containing 3,200 gallons of water that could be dumped into a ramp right into the hotel lobby and wipe out whoever was there.” Three different color palettes were devised with Earth being organic, while space was chromatic and clean and the Moon colorless. “I was responsible for every digital asset that would be later used in post, so the creation of the post-production was happening far earlier in pre-production than you would imagine,” explains Petruccelli, who did 3D modeling in Maya. “The previsualization was so detailed that it was almost photoreal. You could understand what Roland was going to do and how best to tell the story. Every set was digitally created for visual effects, and then we isolated from it what had to be physically constructed to meet the needs of where Roland wanted to go.” Previs was created for every visual effects sequence. “My previs crew, visual effects supervisor and I talked about the purpose of the scene, how to build the environment and what’s happening, and then I set cameras,” explains Emmerich. “Once in a while it works. If it doesn’t work, we change it. It’s a tedious process that takes four to five months. Moonfall has 1,700 visual effects shots. You have to plan exactly what you want to do, because visual effects companies are already working on these shots while you’re shooting the movie. It is like a dance, but because I’ve been doing this for 40 years I’ve gotten good at it.” As with the principal photography, the entire visual effects work was done in Montreal with Peter G. Travers supervising the contributions of DNEG, Framestore, Pixomondo and Scanline VFX. “You could make an easy argument that Montreal is the new hub for visual effects,” says Travers. “Considering the work that we needed

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COVER

TOP TO BOTTOM: Destruction, fires and looting occur around the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) is surrounded by a mysterious force that caused the Moon to fall towards Earth. In order to accommodate costs of the COVID protocols Roland Emmerich shot the entire project in 61 days rather than the originally planned-for 74.

and the amount people at certain facilities, Framestore and DNEG became ideal choices to add to Scanline and Pixomondo, which have longstanding relationships with Roland.” DNEG and Framestore looked after space, while Earth was handled by Scanline VFX and Pixomondo. “There were clear lines. Two vendors never worked on the same shot, but assets were shared with the space shuttle being the biggest one.” Travers enjoys being able to research a different subject matter for each movie that he works on. “For this one, I learned every aspect about the Moon. There was an important process that happened in the beginning with Roland. The Moon falling towards the Earth is fantastical; however, what I ended up doing was building a physics simulation in Maya based on the question, ‘If the Moon gains more mass, could we get it to fall with actual physics?’ And we were able to do it.” Maya is an actual physics simulator. “I built an accurate version of the Moon orbiting the Earth based on Newtonian physics,” explains Travers. “I constructed different virtual cameras showing the same simulation. Then I started messing with the physics of the Moon to see if I could get it to fall. Roland had certain requests, like having the Moon crash into the Earth in three weeks, which in essence is a design factor that got built into the simulation. What we discovered is that it’s not a perfect spiral orbit but elliptical. It was fascinating to learn what the Moon could do under these conditions. In rare instances when the Moon would be so close, you would be pulled 2Gs of gravity sideways while you’re being pulled down. There is a key sequence where the gravity is extremely unusual. This simulation ended up being our physics bible, but within that there is a certain wiggle room. But generally speaking, this was scary enough. We were also using my different cameras for actual moon size throughout the movie.” LED panels were rigged on cranes and were constantly configured around the windows of the spacecrafts. “It got challenging because Roland wanted to shoot a master shot,” remarks Travers. “It just happened that outside there would be 10 significant events going on while these pages of dialogue were going on. We had to prep ahead of time content that would be done in Maya and be fed into the LED panels; then we would be cueing them editorially. Sometimes we were fed directly into Maya if the camera needed to be changed. There is a scene when one of the crafts is rotating quickly, so we had to have the sun rotating rapidly. We ran the sun across the LED panels. We were constantly figuring out ways to use these panels for lighting, and in some rare instances they would directly show up in camera.” The biggest design challenge was the Moon, states Travers. “I can’t [for spoiler reasons] reveal what aspect of it. It’s the best part of the movie. There is a sense of wonder. Of course, none of this is possible without Roland because he goes to places and shows us things that we have never seen before. That’s literally why we go to the theaters to watch a popcorn movie. This is what Moonfall has.”

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VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Visual Effects Society Executive Director Eric Roth has had a front row seat to the dynamic global VFX industry and a major role in the Society’s growth, serving at the helm of the organization’s staff for 18 years. VFX Voice sat down with Roth to get his perspectives as the Society celebrates its 25th Anniversary. What stands out for you as key achievements in the evolution of the Society? On one level, it’s the tangible elements and events that have become synonymous with the Society – our award-winning VFX Voice magazine, three editions of the VES Handbook of Visual Effects, developing extraordinary VES Awards shows, our VES Honors Program and Hall of Fame, and our volunteer Committees who do important work for our organization. But on a broader sense, it’s the continuing healthy growth of the organization in terms of membership and reach. When I assumed this role, we were about 750 people, mostly situated in California; now we have more than 4,000 members in over 40 countries and 14 Sections worldwide. We are a vibrant organization that truly embodies a great sense of worldwide community for our profession. That is what I’m most proud of.

VES TURNS 25: A CONVERSATION WITH VES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ERIC ROTH By NAOMI GOLDMAN

One of the goals of the organization is to raise the profile, recognition and respect level of the visual effects industry – how are we doing in meeting those marks? This pursuit has been one of the most dramatic efforts during my tenure. Right now, I think there is a common understanding across all sectors of entertainment that the industry’s biggest star is visual effects, which is reflected in the size of every show’s budget and what fans want to see. Hit after hit owes so much to the amazing artists who consistently deliver remarkable effects and imagery and make the impossible… possible. And as we keep forging ahead into streaming platforms and the demand for content is exploding, the future for VFX is seemingly limitless. Tell us about the leadership of the VES Board over the years. A huge blessing of my tenure has been working with our volunteer leaders serving on the Board in all capacities, and certainly the six people who have held the title of Chair – each of them singularly remarkable leaders. We strive to focus on issues of importance at the intersection of art, technology and business. The passion, knowledge and determination of these leaders to ensure the Society progresses have been essential as we work to represent the industry, the VFX craft and our membership. At almost two decades as Executive Director, what does your VES legacy look like?

TOP: Eric Roth OPPOSITE TOP: VES Awards Show host Patton Oswalt and VES Executive Director Eric Roth meet up for their annual on-stage banter.

There are specific projects I want to see to fruition, and creating a VFX Digital Museum is at the top of my list. From interviews with luminaries to techniques and VFX props to befores/afters on awards submissions and our own rich history – I want to make sure

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these assets are preserved and available to our members and the rest of the world in a fun, accessible way. I also want to continue providing valuable benefits to support our members in their professional and personal lives, and our new Member Assistance Program providing health and lifestyle support 24/7 is the kind of programming I want to keep fostering. Ultimately, I’m now most interested in those projects that will stand the test of time so that my successors 30 years from now will look back and feel they have a strong foundation for the work and goals they want to achieve. How has the VES innovated during the protracted pandemic? With heads of the tech revolution and early adopters among our ranks, our industry pivoted quickly to tell stories in new and creative ways. And the Society shifted almost immediately into producing a wealth of online content, with dozens of dynamic webcasts and virtual events including a digital spin on the VES Awards. It was important that we maintain our traditions, while pushing the envelope of the pandemic’s constraints. The lessons we have learned to adapt and stay resilient have been invaluable. We’re also coming up on the 20th Annual VES Awards. What is the magic of this annual event? The VES Awards is a huge point of pride for me and my producing partner in crime Jeff Okun, as well as the VES Awards Committee, who work year-round to refine the Rules and Procedures that govern the Awards. The magic is the excitement and energy of the crowd. Every year, quieting the ballroom to start the show is a

major feat, because people are so excited to be together, if only for one night. When I walk through the crowd and look at the audience from atop the stage, I feel like I am home with family. What are some moments that stand out from these star-studded VES Awards? So many. That time I flubbed Ridley Scott’s name and (then Fox Studios Chair) Jim Gianopulos stood up in the ballroom and called me out, mid-speech. Wafting in and out of greenroom conclaves between Jimmy Kimmel and Mark Hamill. Watching intimate moments, like Roger Corman swapping stories backstage with VES Board Chairs Jeff Okun and Mike Chambers. My annual shtick with our wonderful and sharp-tongued perennial host, Patton Oswalt. And moments that change our course, like when Steven Spielberg took the stage and passionately urged us to honor the next generation of artists. And by the following year, the VES-Autodesk Student Award was born. I’m grateful for every moment. Can you share any closing thoughts? The number one biggest strength and pleasure is working with extraordinary staff and passionate volunteer leaders as we serve our Board and Sections. We would never be able to pay for the caliber of award-winning artists and innovators who are on this journey with us, simply because they believe in who we are and what we do. I’ve been in the catbird’s seat for 18 years, and I’m the luckiest guy in the industry.

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VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

REFLECTIONS: VES BOARD CHAIRS ON 25 YEARS OF DRAMATIC EVOLUTION By NAOMI GOLDMAN

TOP: VES Chairs group Zoom shot. Clockwise from left: Jim Morris, VES; Carl Rosendahl; Jeffrey A. Okun, VES; Jeff Barnes; Mike Chambers, VES; Lisa Cooke; and Eric Roth, with roundtable anchor Naomi Goldman. OPPOSITE TOP TO BOTTOM: VES Founders Award recipient Toni Pace Carstensen and the late Bill Taylor at the 2019 VES Honors Celebration. Zoe Saldana presents the Visionary Award to JJ Abrams at the 13th Annual VES Awards. Inaugural VES Chair Jim Morris presides over the 1st Annual VES Awards.

From its ambitious inception in late 1996 with a few hundred members in Los Angeles to a flourishing global honorary society with more than 4,000 members in over 40 countries, the Visual Effects Society is proud to celebrate its milestone 25th Anniversary and the exemplary VFX community whose contributions have made the Society what it is today. As the entertainment industry’s only organization representing the full breadth of visual effects practitioners, the VES has built a rich legacy by advancing the arts, science and application of visual effects, improving the welfare of its members, celebrating VFX excellence and serving as a resource to the ever-changing global marketplace. The Society has demonstrated its commitment to elevating the craft of visual effects and its practitioners in numerous ways, including: • Giving birth to a tight-knit global community and 14 diverse VES Sections – Australia, Bay Area, France, Georgia, Germany, India, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, New Zealand, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington; • Publishing three editions of the industry’s go-to VFX reference, The VES Handbook of Visual Effects, and launching its award-winning print and digital magazine VFX Voice; • Establishing the VES Hall of Fame and VES Honors program to recognize exceptional contributions to the Society and VFX community; • Developing valuable programming that educates, inspires and uplifts, including a wealth of virtual content featuring the VFX Pros: Home Edition and VES-Autodesk Ask Me Anything: VFX Pros Tell All webcast series; • Hosting the VFX industry’s must-attend Annual VES Awards, which recognizes outstanding VFX talent and fosters the next generation of filmmakers;

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• And finding new ways to support and invest in our members, with mentoring, skills building, educational and health and wellness resources. VES CHAIRS, ASSEMBLE!

Six distinguished professionals have served as VES Board Chair over the past 25 years, shepherding the VES’s impressive roster of programs and initiatives in conjunction with staff and Section managers. VFX Voice gathered all the chairs, with VES Executive Director Eric Roth, to share some reflections and insights. This small club of esteemed volunteer VES leaders includes: Jim Morris, VES - President, Pixar Animation Studios (and Founding VES Chair); Carl Rosendahl - Distinguished Professor of Practice and Director of the Entertainment Technology Center’s Silicon Valley campus; Jeffrey A. Okun, VES - renowned visual effects supervisor; Jeff Barnes - Executive Vice President, Creative Development, Light Field Lab; Mike Chambers, VES - acclaimed visual effects producer and consultant; and Lisa Cooke - animation and VFX producer. Morris: The origin story: In the late ’90s, all of the studios were rolling into VFX and there was tremendous momentum, but we often felt like second-class citizens. The timing felt right to teach the industry about what we do, improve our standing and find a form for honoring the contributors to our industry. Building relationships among artists and practitioners was essential to our business, and so there was great support and acceptance to share our experiences and elevate our craft. Bringing VFX to the forefront and being part of the VES’s genesis – and this esteemed group – is a great point of pride for me. Rosendahl: In taking the mantle from Jim, who helped realize the foundational vision for the Society, I focused on building the infrastructure… the processes and procedures that would help us mature from our infancy into a stable and sustainable organization. I was tasked with heading our recruiting committee, which ultimately brought on Eric Roth as Executive Director. Now 18 years in his tenure, I see hiring Eric as one of my biggest accomplishments. Okun: The Awards show was really Jim’s baby… and it was a journey getting to that first show, with 350 people at the Skirball Center, to where we are today. Little known fact: we crowdsourced the design of the award itself. One of our members came up with the Georges Méliès moon face idea, and here’s what’s unique – the back of the award is the back of a set with chicken wire and the whole thing lights up. Our award won an award for awards! What’s most gratifying is walking into the room on Awards Show night and seeing the mass of people who are genuinely excited to be there in celebration of their peers as we honor every vertical we can think of. And on serving as VES Chair – it’s a life-changer, and Jim and Carl were absolute lifelines. Morris: I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity to honor some of our pioneers in our early years of the show, like Lynwood Dunn and Ray Harryhausen. I have vivid memories of us then coming together to lobby the Mayor of Hollywood to get Ray a star on the

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VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

TOP TO BOTTOM: Jimmy Kimmel and legendary filmmaker Roger Corman backstage at the 17th Annual VES Awards. Steve Carell presents at the 17th Annual VES Awards. Acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay with VES Summit Chair Rita Cahill at the 2017 Summit.

Hollywood Walk of Fame. Our show continues to be that beacon where VFX talent get their deserved moment in the spotlight. I’m so excited to attend our 20th Awards show this year – it gives me goosebumps! Barnes: I love being around creative people, and the Society is the pinnacle when it comes to conveying outstanding professionals and using our collective resources to advance our work. When I came on as Chair, I was feeling a sense of responsibility in hiring people for my company and growing a business, and I was aiming to set some precedent and considerations that might help protect them and enhance their professional life. Providing that kind of value was and is really important to me, and I’m proud of the work not only as board member and Chair, but also as a member. Chambers: That rally around Ray Harryhausen is actually what inspired the Hall of Fame. While we had the Awards Show in place to honor our contemporaries, so many formative people that had passed on needed to be remembered. A lot of things came to fruition under my watch: the Hall of Fame, launching VFX Voice magazine, and certainly an explosion of global expansion, but everything was a team effort and built on what came before. What guided me when I came into this role was our mission and how could I help us continue to foster education and build recognition for the practitioners all across the industry. Over time, we have evolved into a more inclusive organization. COVID was a left turn, and yet we have been supportive and resilient during the pandemic, so adept at creating remarkable virtual programming and finding ways to keep us all tethered across the globe. We keep getting better, and that’s testament to all of our volunteer leaders and every one of our members. Cooke: Mike, yours were very big shoes to fill. Essentially, I inherited a beautiful, well-built house, but I didn’t have to build the house. The support among this special group who know what’s possible and how to make things happen has been invaluable. I’m proud to be the first woman in this role, and I’m committed to lifting up our future leaders so that I’m not the last. Okun: It’s the VES that draws the passion and respect out of people and invests it back into the Society and our industry. I may be biased, but the VES is the gold standard. The volunteerism that fuels our work, at every level, is amazing, and the new voices and new talents who are stepping up to help shape our future encourage me. Barnes: From the time that I joined to where the Society is today, it’s mind-blowing. We set out to raise the credibility and respect level of the visual effects community and shine a spotlight on the excellence of the artists and practitioners. And the extent to which that has happened is undeniable. Membership continues to skyrocket, and our magazine and awards show are acclaimed… and so our ability to have an influence gives us a great platform to keep innovating. Chambers: Our determination to outreach to all corners of the globe and to all of the disciplines across the VFX spectrum has definitely yielded us a very rich, talented membership, and that commitment to diversity will continue to be a driving force of the organization. And bottom line, more than just recognizing and honoring our history, we are actually making history for our industry… and we’re documenting it to create a powerful legacy that will endure. Rosendahl: The VES has played a vital role as an industry convener,

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VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

TOP TO BOTTOM: VFX legends Dennis Murren, Bob Burns, Phil Tippett, Doug Trumbull, John Knoll, Syd Mead and Ed Catmull at the 2017 VES Summit and Honors Celebration. Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Sir Ridley Scott with Kate Mara at the 14th Annual VES Awards. Visionary Award recipient Victoria Alonso beams at the 15th Annual VES Awards.

providing forums for education and skills development, and in prompting conversations around the complexities of our rapidly evolving global marketplace. We have the aptitude to keep focused on how the industry adapts and innovates and can help shape that landscape, while we build capacity among our members to foster their success. Cooke: When I took on this role, I wanted to delve into who the Sections are, so I’ve been on a global Zoom tour, listening in to keep building a sense of community that is a true reflection of our diverse industry. So much work is going on across the organization that fills me with pride and optimism. I’m enthusiastic about our Education Committee in developing programs to mentor young women and people of color and bring them into visual effects. That effort will only enhance our field for future generations. I’m proud that we will be introducing a Technology Award into the Awards program and of the work of our Archives Committee in capturing and preserving interviews with our VFX pioneers and luminaries. And I’m immensely gratified by the work of our Health and Wellbeing Committee, which has developed amazing resources to support our members, personally and professionally, including our new Member Assistance Program available to our members worldwide 24/7. These are the investments and benefits that make being a part of the Society so meaningful. Okun: When VFX took the leap on the shoulders of the greats in the ’50s/’60s/’70s and the team on Star Wars – the rubber band that kicked us into orbit – that’s when the magic of VFX became a community of magicians. I begged to join the Society when it was formed, because that’s where the dark arts convened to share the real stories – and still do. We are pivotal to every aspect of the entertainment industry, and there is not a single image that we don’t touch. Our ongoing work to command the respect equal to our contributions is vital and makes a huge difference. Morris: The esprit de corps, the camaraderie, the authentic sense of community at the center of everything we do, is why we have accomplished so much together our first 25 years… and here’s to the next 25!

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VES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

25 YEARS OF HIGHLIGHTS

From our Society's inception to present day, here are the important milestone markers of the Visual Effects Society's first 25 years.

Visual Effects Society established

1996

First Board of Directors formed

1997

VES held 1st VES Festival of Visual Effects

1999

Jim Morris, VES named as first VES Board Chair

Tom Atkin named as VES Executive Director

2003

VES held 1st Annual VES Awards

Carl Rosendahl, VES elected as Board Chair

2004

Eric Roth named as VES Executive Director

VES Membership reached 1,000 in 16 Countries

2005

Jeffrey A. Okun, VES elected as Board Chair

2006

Bay Area Section established

2007

Released "VES 50" List - The Most Influential VFX Films of All Time

2008

Australia Section established

London Section established

Jeff Barnes elected as Board Chair

Vancouver Section established

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Jeffrey A. Okun, VES elected as Board Chair

VES presented first VES Student Award

Released The VES Handbook of Visual Effects, 1st Edition

New York Section established

2009

VES Membership reached 2,000 in 23 Countries

VES held the 1st VES Production Summit

2010

Created the VES Fellows classification

New Zealand Section established

2011 2012

Montreal Section established

2013

VES issued “The State of the Global VFX Industry 2013” whitepaper

2014

Los Angeles Section established

Mike Chambers, VES elected as Board Chair

2015

VES Membership reached 3,000 in 33 Countries

Washington Section established

2016

Germany Section established

Toronto Section established

Released The VES Handbook of Visual Effects, 2nd Edition

VFX Voice Magazine launched

Released "VES 70" List The Most Influential VFX Films of All Time

2017

VES created Hall of Fame; inducted first class at 1st VES Honors Celebration

India and France Sections established

VES adopted Code of Conduct

2018

Georgia Section established

2019

VES Membership reached 4,000 in 43 Countries

2020

Released The VES Handbook of Visual Effects, 3rd Edition

Lisa Cooke elected as first woman Board Chair

2021

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MEMBERSHIP

2022 VES MEMBERS Our 25th anniversary issue would not be complete without celebrating our members from around the world. You are our greatest strength and source of pride - so take a bow! Argentina Alejandro Iturmendi Pablo Izaguirre Australia Ben Andersen Jordan Bartlett Jason Bath Dan Bethell Jason Billington Kunal Biswas Marten Blumen Timothy Bond James Bourne Andrew Brown Paul Buckley Paul Butterworth Stuart Cadzow Kevin Campbell Kiersten Casey Fiona Chilton Naeem Chudawala Tony Clark Andrew Clarke Rob Coleman Ian Cope Fiona Crawford Felix Crawshaw Tim Crosbie Kurt Debens Domenic Di Giorgio Zoe Diamond Tyson Donnelly Sigi Eimutis Dean Elliott Tyrone Estephan Ian Failes Stefan Gillard Victor Glushchenko Alexander Goodwin Markus Graf Robert Grbevski Jonathan Hairman Daniel Heckenberg Sam Hodge Lara Hopkins Greg Howe-Davies Benjamin Hudson Julian Hutchens Timothy Jeffs Samuel Jensen Ingrid Johnston Bhautik Joshi Gregory Jowle Stephen King Ryan Kirby Paul Kirwan

Jamal Knight Haris Kruskic Alan Lam Samuel Loxton Linda Luong Mathew Mackereth Alex Meddick Kirsteen Millar Jay Miller Naomi Mitchell Bryn Morrow Arwen Munro Zareh Nalbandian Kulathu House Nandakumar Payan Gregory Ng Gregory O’Connor Pawel Olas Martin Orlowski Christophe Pacaud Premamurti Paetsch Andrew Palmer Adrian Paul Nick Pitt-Owen Dominik Platen Anthony Poriazis Justin Porter Jeremy Pronk Jason Quintana Shane Rabey Benjamin Rayner Will Reichelt Gabriel Reichle Robbie Reid Andrew Ritchie Simon Rosenthal Ray Ruawhare Johannes Saam Malte Sarnes Mike Seymour Dilen Shah Ben Simons Chris Spry Alastair Stephen Grant Street Phillip Stuart-Jones Jonathon Sumner Aditya Talwar Jo Ann Tan Eleni Taylor Lewis Taylor Sharon Taylor Arthur Terzis Daniel Thomson Anders Thönell Ryan Trippensee Noah Vice

Nina Walsh Andreas Wanda Marcus Wells Stuart White Bree Whitford Smith Guido Wolter Chris Young Jennie Zeiher Austria Katharina Kessler Martin Stegmayer Valentin Struklec Rainer Zoettl Belgium Michel Denis Sander Jansen Pascal Loef Brazil Eduardo Amodio Alceu Baptistao, Jr. Alexandre Cruz Tomas Egger Teisson Froes Diogo Girondi Raoni Nery Thiago Pires Rick Ramos Eduardo Schaal Marcelo Siqueira Bulgaria Ivan Grozev Martin Naydenski Canada Charles Abou Aad Michael Adkisson Illia Afanasiev Anton Agerbo Prashant Agrawal Nicolas Aithadi Vladislav Akhtyrskiy Christine Albers Neishaw Ali Alexandre Allain Christopher Anciaume Geoffrey Anderson Kristen Anderson Stuart Ansley Roy C Anthony Marina Antunes Richard Arroyo Arundi Asregadoo Felipe Assumpcao Greg Astles

Jarrod Avalos Mostafa Badran Fabricio Baessa Larry Bafia Sandra Balej Michael Baloun Berj Bannayan Rob Bannister Cristin Barghiel Craig Barr Francois Beaudry Ron Bedard Anders Beer Greg Behrens Jo Ann Belen Frank Belina Dennis Berardi Danny Bergeron Richard Bergeron Laurence Berkani Stefan Bernscherer Romain Besnard Melissa Best Sucheta Bhatawadekar Paul Binney David Bitton Thomas Blacklock Duncan Blackman Lucian Boicu Landon Bootsma Gaelle Bossis Nicholas Boughen Aharon Bourland Eric Bourque Gavin Boyle Phil Brennan Ian Britton Andre Brizard Scott Broad Shaun Brown Kevin Browne Alan Bucior Ayo Burgess David Burgess Greg Butler John Cameron Daniel Camp Jeffrey Campbell Zacary Campbell Daniel Canfora Dan Carnegie Bradley Caruk Marie Castrie Trevor Cawood Kevin Chandoo Fred Chapman Tavia Charlton

Matthieu Chatelier Eve Chauvet Nicolas Chevallier Alan Chuck Marko Chulev Ovidiu Cinazan Karen Clarke Ryan Clarke Eric Clement James Cochrane Sarah Coffyn Tony Como Cyril Conforti Brian Connor Chris Cook John Cook Shane Cook Spencer Cook James Cooper Kerry Corlett Sebastien Corne Jacinthe Cote Marc Côté Pierre Couture Mario Couturier Daniel Cox Louis Craig Jan Cramer Darren Cranford Bret Culp Martyn Culpitt Colin Cunningham Glenn Curry Mark Curtis Andrew Cuthbert Rory Cutler Laurence Cymet Joe D’Amato Nikolas D’Andrade Frank D’Iorio Cesar Dacol, Jr. Marie-Cecile Dahan Etienne Daigle Johanna Damato Kim Davidson Michael Davidson Colin Davies Felipe Luiz de Andrade Anthony De Chellis Natalia De la Garza Juan de Santiago Thierry Delattre Joel Delle-Vergin Stanley Dellimore Nicolas Delval Peter Denomme Mehul Desai

Thierry Dezarmenien Theo Diamantis Jeremy Dineen Jean-Luc Dinsdale Ben Dishart Thai Son Doan Eric Doiron Peter Dominik Jason Dowdeswell Brett Dowler Christopher Downs Hank Driskill Nicolas Dumay Francois Dumoulin Shawn Dunn Charlene Eberle Michelle Eisenreich Mark Elendt Filipp Elizarov Mahmoud Ellithy Nicolas Elsig Eddie Englander Eric Ennis Jack Evans, Jr. Pascal Favron Jean-Francois Ferland Maxime Ferland Daniel Finnegan Stacy Fish Jean-Pierre Flayeux Niall Flinn Julien Forest Jenny Foster Carlos Fraiha Natasha Francis Warren Franklin, VES Fortunato Frattasio TJ Galda Rosie Galvin Eric Gambini Himanshu Gandhi Wei Gao Steve Garrad William Garrett Duolin Ge Brent George Eric Gervais-Despres Kunal Ghosh Dastider Michael Gibson Raymond Gieringer Dave Giles Laurent Gillet Michael Goldfarb Patricia Gomes Claudio Gonzalez Marcus Goodwin Dhruv Govil

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Michelle Grady Gavin Graham Clint Green Derek Grime Larry Gritz Lars Groeger Tyson Groth Luke Groves Chloe Grysole Eric Guaglione Diego Guerrero Jan Habib Robert Habros Robin Hackl Winrik Haentjens Marc Hall Bill Halliday Noah Hamdan Matthew Hanger Trey Harrell Jessica Harris Chris Harvey Geoffrey Harvey Leann Harvey Oliver Hearsey Christopher Hebert Shawn Hillier Cristian Hinz Dennis Hoffman Noel Hoffman Ronald Honn Noel Hooper Kristian Howald Roberto Hradec Jo Hughes Colin Hui Terry Hutcheson Chrismac Hwang Sho Igarashi Brett Ineson Ludovic Iochem John Iskandar Vanessa Jacobsen Ruheene Jaura Colleen Jenkinson Vivian Jim Sheena Johnson Laura Jones Phil Jones Yann Jouannic Marc Joubert-Nederveen Steve Jubinville Gregory Juby Luc Julien Dushyant Kashyap Joseph Kasparian Chris Kazmier Scott Keating Tyler Kehl Michael Kennedy Tony Kenny Alexander Kew Cindy Khoo Gyuri Kiss Andrew Klein Duffy Knox Douglas Koch Patrick Kolodziejski Carsten Kolve Arek Komorowski Dmytro Korolov Marshall Krasser Mat Krentz Ryan Kuba Bartek Kujbida Mike Kwan

Melanie La Rue Laurent Laban Mohamed Ghouse Labbai Pierre-Luc Labbee Benoit Ladouceur Guillaume Laferrière Jeff Lait Francois Lambert Alberto Landeros Isabelle Langlois Wendy Lanning Amanda Lariviere Shandy Lashley Niña Laureles Warren Lawtey Emilien Lazaron Tony Lazarowich Daniel Leatherdale Daniel Leduc Mai-Ling Lee Marine Lelievre Matt Leonard Rudy Leti Bruno Leveque Brenda Levert Jacques Levesque Meng Li Todd Liddiard Martin Lipmann William Lipsmeyer II Frederick Lissau Kevin Little Noah Lockwood Jeremie Lodomez Nathan Loofbourrow Marc Lougee Blaine Lougheed Shannan Louis Micael Luis Kobeh Andreas Maaninka Chris MacLean George Macri Allan Magled Robin Mangat Jeannette Manifold John Mariella Simon Marinof Ricardo Marmolejo Garcia Richard Martin John Mather Praveen Mathew Seth Maury James May Kate McFadden David McGhie Nigel McGrath Raymond McMillan Sarah McMurdo Laird McMurray Perrine Michel Virginia Mielke Abel Milanes Curt Miller Jacob Miller Marta Mintenko Alberto Montanes Carlos Monzon Sebastien Moreau Louis Morin Dave Morley Ben Mossman Nancy Mott Basi Cynthia Mourou Didier Muanza Gayle Munro Michel Murdock

Alexander Naud Jonathan Nelson Christine Neumann James Nicholl Ken Nielsen Paul Nightingale Chad Nixon Nicolas Noel Peter Nofz Annie Normandin Andre Nugroho Sabrina Nunes Philip Nussbaumer Sean O’Connor Steven O’Connor Marianne O’Reilly Eddy Okba David Olivares David Oliver Stephen Oliver Mihaela Orzea Scott Palleiko Christian Paradis James Paradis Sehwi Park Michael Parker Anthony Paterson Bhakti Patwardhan Don Paul Addison Pauli Gillian Pearson Gregory Peczinka Martin Pelletier Stephanie Pennington Eric Pepin Aymeric Perceval Jonathan Piche-Delorme Sergio Pinto Sylvain Plourde Darren Poe Vincent Poitras James Porter Akie Prapas Kristin Pratt James B. Price Aitor Prieto Sly Provencher Vicki Pui Toni Pykalaniemi Maickel Quinet Sebastien Racine Mahmoud Rahnama Jeff Ranasinghe Kenton Rannie Pierre Raymond Mathieu Raynault Julia Reck Brian Reid Dominic Remane Laurent Reynaud Guy Riessen Chris Ritvo Eric Robinson Rogelio Rodriguez Mario Rokicki Tom Rolfe Andrew Rosen David Rosenbaum Justine Rosette-Nelligan Marc A. Rousseau Jean-Paul Rovela Susan Rowe Norbert Ruf Mark Ryan Kody Sabourin Paul Saint-Hilaire

Erick Salazar Paul Salvini David Sanchez Anthony Santoro Atsushi Sato Mark Savela Ronald Saw Ozen Sayidof Brandon Schaafsma Jakob Schmidt Francois Schneider Matt Schofield Brett Schroeder Sean Schur Sebastian Schutt Rebecca Scott Kevin Sears Lisa Sepp-Wilson Wesley Sewell Daryl Shail Steve Shearston Daniel Sheerin Kirk Shimano Bradley Sick Bjoern Siegert Laureline Silan John Silander Graham Silva Victoria Simiele Subodh Singh Corey Smith Robert Smith Timothy Smith Oleg Smykalov Jordan Soles Vib Soundrarajah Frederic St. Arnaud Harrison Stark Mark Stasiuk Darryl Stawychny Adam Stern Timothy Stevenson Jeremy Stewart Kenneth Stewart Jelena Stojanovic Tamara Stone Boyan Stoyanov Florian Strobl Lee Sullivan Prapanch Swamy Sarah Swick Glenn Sylvester Sebastian Sylwan, VES Fernando Talavera Kenny Tam Paolo Tamburrino Anthony Tan Dann Tarmy Brendan Taylor Edward Taylor Christa Tazzeo Morson Fausto Tejeda Sebastien Terme Benoit Terminet Schuppon Kieran Tether Steven Tether Sylvain Thibodeau Melinka Thompson-Godoy Daniele Tosti Benoit Touchette Tony Tsai Jerry Tung Tom Turnbull Dennis Turner Ben Unsworth Chris van Dyck

Ryan van Steenburgh Jayme Vandusen Jessy Veilleux Andres Vitale Frank Vitz Stephen Wagner Cameron Waldbauer Andrew Walker Ross Wallis Shawn Walsh Xiaoming Wang Christopher Watkins Andrea Weidlich Aaron Weintraub Larry Weiss Tyler Weiss Jeff Wells Craig Wentworth Joel Whist David Whiteson Bob Wiatr Shane Wicklund Sean Wicks Lee Wilson David Windhorst, Jr. Philipp Wolf Bruce Woloshyn Sarah Wormsbecher Aaron Wright Bruno Xiberras Mavis Xu Gustavo Yamin Ryan Yee Clement Yip Christopher Young Keri Young Jeffrey Zablotny Christopher Lee Zammit Timothy Zhao Li Zhu Ken Zorniak Chile Tomas Roca China Ashwin Agrawal Chunlin Mi Wei Song Paul Yun Zhong Colombia Andrea Espinal Catherine Florez Andres Hernandez Ospina Brayan Linares Nossa Czech Republic Sridharan Kaliyamoorthy Denmark Thomas Dyg Nick Thye Finland Maya Kylmamaa Scott Liedtka Sami Nikki France Aurelia Abate Chadi Abo Nasser Abo Alexandre Ada Renata Azambuja Frank Baradat

Harry Bardak Beatrice Bauwens Xavier Bec Malica Benjemia Leon Berelle Stephane Bidault Yann Blondel Nicolas Bonnell Yves Bosson Tony Botella Bastien Brenot Laurent Brett David Brochard Denis Brunier Pierre Buffin Pascal Buron Damien Canaméras Olivier Cauwet Mathilde Chambras Bruno Chauffard Bastien Chauvet Sebastien Chort Grégoire Cirade Brice Colinet Catherine Constant-Grisolet Laurent Creusot Noemie Cruciani David Danesi Jonathan Del Val Yves Delforge Wacyl Djender Solenn Draia Sebastien Drouin Emmanuel Dufaure Maxime Dumas Margaux Durand-Rival Laurens Ehrmann Mhamed Elmezoued Olivier Emery Sebastien Fauchere Roxane Fechner Christophe Ferrier Philippe Fournier Ludovic Frege Fabien Girodot Pascal Giroux Francois Gressier Christian Guillon Benoit Holl Guy-Laurent Homsy Yannick Honore Alexandra Houillon Boris Jacq Marc Jouveneau Renaud Jungmann Gilbert Kiner Raphael Kourilsky Fabrice Lagayette Julien Lambert Franck Lambertz Eric Lautard Mathieu Le Meur Thibault Leclercq Brice Lehmann Cedric Lejeune Josselin Mahot Bruno Maillard Yann Marchet Gaston Marcotti Guillaume Marien Quentin Martin Julien Martins Camille Mirey Julien Mokrani Sandrine Moniez Antoine Moulineau

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MEMBERSHIP Aude Nguyen Ngoc Bernard Nicolas Xavier Nicolas Alexis Oblet Lolet Ong David Pelle Franck Petitta Emmanuel Pichereau Stephane Pivron Dominique Pochat Luc Pourrinet Nicolas Rey Milo Riccarand Denis Scolan James Sénade Antonin Seydoux Eric Texier Cat Thelia Simon Thomas Luke Titley Edouard Valton Nathalie Vancauwenberghe Alexis Vieil Milan Voukassovitch Germany Jan Adamczyk Christian Arlt Katrin Arndt Pablo Bach Matthias Backmann Sebastian Badea Andrea Block Moritz Bock Kirstin Boettcher Marcelo Bortolini Heiko Burkardsmaier Benjamin Burr Patrick Busse Christina Caspers-Romer Cristiano Cesolari Christopher Chaber Sabrina Christoforidis Alessandro Cioffi Michael Coldewey Philipp Danner Mauricio de Oliveira Markus Degen Kay Delventhal Ernest Dios Viaplana Rico Dober Michael Dohne Tobias Dommer Manuel Dongowski Jimmy Duda Sebastian Elsner Volker Engel Timm Engelkamp Marco Erbrich Francesco Faranna Imke Fehrmann Caroline Fetzer Jan Fiedler Markus Fischmann Haggi Floeser-Krey Kai-Florian Franke Urs Franzen Tonio Freitag Sinje Gebauer Florian Gellinger Andreas Giesen Joern Grosshans Michael Habenicht Thomas Haegele Timo Hanczuk Christoph Hasche

Eberhard Hasche Jasmin Hasel Dietrich Hasse Volker Heisterberg Volker Helzle Mathias Herbster Martin Herzberg Annika Hirsch Falk Hofmann Oliver Hohn Michael Honisch Michael Honsel Korbinian Hopfner Holger Hummel Julius Ihle Radoslaw Jamrog Zoran Kazic Thilo Kienle Niels Kleinheinz Jonas Kluger Thomas Knop Constantin Konradt Tanja Krampfert Philipp Kratzer Jesse Kretschmer Patrick Kreuser Michael Landgrebe Johanna Lange Vincent Langer Michael Lankes Sebastian Lauer Nicolas Leu Sebastian Leutner Mei Lee Lim Ivan Lima Thomas Loeder Julian Lojek Tim Luecker Aaron Luk Axel Mahler Igor Majdandzic Christoph Malessa Oliver Markowski Gus Martinez Natalie Meffert Sebastian Meszmann Johannes Mewes Marco Meyer Michael Mielke Tobias Moenninger Wilhelm Molderings Rolf Muetze Benedikt Niemann Sebastian Nozon Simon Ohler Sven Pannicke Stephen Parsons Enrico Perei Roland Petrizza Frank Petzold Jan Piccart Robert Pinnow Nina Pries Christian Pundschus Franzisca Puppe Daniel Rath Leslie Renaud Dennis Rettkowski Simon Richter Martin Rosenkranz Marcus Ruhmke Nicola Russi David Salamon Sven Sauer Marlies Schacherl Stephan Schaefholz

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RANDALL WILLIAM COOK: AN OSCAR WINNER’S JOURNEY FROM HARRYHAUSEN TO HOBBITS By ADAM EISENBERG

Photos courtesy of Randall William Cook, except where noted. TOP: Cook and Harryhausen, 2012. Harryhausen passed away in 2013 at the age of 92. In 2019, Cook was made an advisor to the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. OPPOSITE TOP TO BOTTOM: Cook and Ray Harryhausen, 1987. Cook manipulating the Wolf Lizard puppet from The Day Time Ended (1979). Cook “standing” in a scene from Caveman (1981) beside the T-Rex puppet he animated.

When Randall William Cook arrived for his first day on the set of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, director Peter Jackson immediately put him to work. Jackson introduced Cook to miniature supervisor Richard Taylor and to the enormous model Taylor and his team had constructed for the towering stone steps of Khazad-Dûm. “Peter rushed me through the set and told me I was going to direct the previz animation,” Cook says. “We talked through the sequence with everybody offering opinions, including me. There were lots of ideas thrown out and I couldn’t see how they gelled, so I asked: ‘Do you want me to do what everybody’s been saying?’ ‘No,’ Peter replied. ‘You just do it. This is you.’” From those initial words of encouragement, Cook went on to design one of the most breathtaking action sequences in The Fellowship of the Ring. In the scene, Frodo and company are deep in the dark mines of Moria, fleeing for their lives over stone stairs that are hundreds of feet high. As Orcs launch a barrage of arrows, the ancient steps crack and crumble beneath the Fellowship’s feet, revealing a bottomless chasm below. “They gave me a scan of the miniature and little scale puppets of all the Fellowship guys,” Cook explains. “I choreographed the whole sequence from a God’s eye point-of-view and created a very simple presentation that Pete signed off on. Then I blocked out the

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camera positions, and my team of about four guys and I refined the previz. Pete gave the sequence to a second unit director and told him to copy it exactly and, with the exception of one or two shots, everything in the final film – from the lenses used to the angles to the cutting to the action – was from my previz.” The Khazad-Dûm sequence represents just one of the many contributions Cook made as Animation Supervisor on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It also demonstrates how his cinematic career has served as a bridge between the stop- motion techniques that brought the original King Kong to life and the modern motion capture technology that made possible the hobbit-gone-mad Gollum. Along the way, Cook has won three Academy Awards, but he is most proud of his close friendship with effects master Ray Harryhausen. Cook’s success was far from certain in 1975 when he graduated from UCLA’s film school with the dream of becoming an actor and director. His first post-college job was an animation apprenticeship at Disney at a time when cartoon features were in decline and the studio was focused on forgettable live-action comedies. Disney provided an opportunity to interact with great animators, including many of the original Nine Old Men, but Cook’s most high-profile assignment was drawing live-action gags for the Volkswagen and human characters in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. It was less than inspiring work, and after a year his apprenticeship was suddenly cut short. “I got fired!” Cook recalls with a laugh. “John Lasseter also spent time in their apprenticeship program, and he tells people, ‘Randy and I were fired because we were too good.’ But truthfully, I wasn’t Disney material, and I knew that going in.” Fortunately, the mid-1970s was an exciting time for low-budget science fiction films. Cook quickly landed on his feet doing stop-motion animation for The Crater Lake Monster, Laserblast and The Day Time Ended, alongside other young artists like Jim Danforth, Ken Ralston, VES, Jon Berg, Phil Tippett, VES and David Allen. He also worked for Rob Bottin on Humanoids from the Deep and on John Carpenter’s The Thing. Then came 1981’s Caveman, a prehistoric comedy starring ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and The Spy Who Loved Me’s Barbara Bach. Cook was one of the key animators of comical stop-motion dinosaurs that stole the show, and the movie’s cult success led to a multi-year position at Richard Edlund’s (VES) Boss Films. At Boss, Cook sculpted and animated the stop-motion puppets for the terror dogs in Ghostbusters, and choreographed the performances of the live-action full-scale puppets on set. He also worked on 2010, Fright Night, and Poltergeist II, and was planning to work on the next Boss project, Big Trouble in Little China, when director Tibor Takács approached him with an opportunity he couldn’t refuse – the chance to supervise the effects for The Gate. “Working under Richard Edlund with Steve Johnson and a bunch of other competing talents was great,” Cook says. “But everyone wanted their voices heard and, as a consequence, sang very loudly. Tibor was going to let me do just about whatever I wanted effects-wise, so it wasn’t much of a choice.” In The Gate, teenagers accidentally open an entrance to Hell

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PROFILE

TOP: Sigourney Weaver pays a visit to Boss Films during the making of Ghostbusters (1984) and views her alter ego, a terror dog. (Photo: Virgil Mirano, Boss Film Studios) BOTTOM: Ghostbusters effects cameraman Jim Aupperle, right, takes a light reading as Cook adjusts the stop motion terror dog. (Photo: Virgil Mirano, Boss Film Studios)

in their backyard and find themselves under attack from foot-tall minions and a multi-story-high Demon Lord. To accomplish the illusion of tiny minions, Cook convinced Takács to use forced perspective sets and in-camera tricks that were throwbacks to Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. “You want to make the audience believe they’re seeing something that’s real,” Cook says, “and even if they know it’s fake – and they have to know it’s fake – they won’t know how the hell you did it. Darby O’Gill was a huge inspiration to me. What makes it magical is when the tiny leprechauns are dancing in front of the big Darby O’Gill, but they’re actually farther away from the camera and he’s closer up. That really confuses your mind because you expect the small guys to look as though they are behind the big guy. “On The Gate, I planned shots with economy in mind,” he adds. “First, I figured if we had guys who were five-and-a-half feet tall playing the tiny minions, the sets could be a bit smaller, and the camera depth of field could be a bit shorter than if we had guys who were six feet. Every inch counts. Second, doing it in forced perspective put much of the budget on the art department. Fortunately, we had a really good art department under Bill Beeton that built fourtimes-scale brick walls and other set pieces that were gorgeous.” Cook next collaborated with Takács on I, Madman, a horror thriller about a young woman who becomes entranced by a mystery novel she’s reading, only to find herself stalked by the crazed author and a fictional monster from the book. Cook not only supervised the visual effects, but also played the horribly disfigured author modeled after Lon Chaney. Following I, Madman, Cook oversaw the effects for The Gate II, directed a segment of TV’s Life Goes On, and directed and co-wrote the fantasy film Demon in a Bottle. Peter Jackson first contacted Cook in 1992 to do stop-motion work on a film Jackson was planning called Blubberhead. That project never got made, but the two stayed in touch and finally had the chance to work together on The Lord of the Rings. Cook arrived in New Zealand in October 1998 and spent the next five years completing the trilogy. It was challenging, monumental work. His extensive previz work and other duties eventually earned him the title of Animation Supervisor, but he found himself consulted on a lot of sequences that had nothing to do with animation. “For the scene in The Two Towers where Treebeard is first introduced,” he recalls, “Fran [Walsh, producer and screenwriter] originally staged it with the hobbits running from the orcs and, suddenly, two tree-branch hands come down and pull them out of the frame. I said: ‘Why don’t we have the hobbits climb up the tree and look around, not realizing it’s Treebeard’s face? One hobbit has his hand on Treebeard’s nose. He looks back, and Treebeard is already looking at him. The hobbit looks away, does a take, and looks back at him. Treebeard’s head turns, and the hobbit falls off.’ “We did a previz of the scene this way. I wasn’t there when they ran it in the dailies, but according to several people including Pete, Fran turned to Pete and said, ‘What’s this?’ Pete replied with a chuckle, ‘Well, apparently somebody thought they had a better idea than you.’”

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PROFILE

TOP: Cook supervised the effects and played the psychotic author Malcolm Brand in I, Madman (1989). BOTTOM: Cook animating a bat puppet for Fright Night (1985). (Photo: Virgil Mirano, Boss Film Studios)

On Return of the King, Fran Walsh presented Cook with different problems to solve. “She came to me and said, ‘We want the ring to fall into the lava, and as soon it does Sauron will know the hobbits are trying to destroy the ring. But we want to play Frodo and Sam on the cliff after Gollum falls in with the ring. What do we do?’ I thought about it and said, ‘The ring was forged in high temperature, right? It can float on top of the lava and start to melt, but it doesn’t completely dissolve until you’re ready for it to finish melting.’ “I made a lot of suggestions that had nothing to do with animation,” Cook adds. “Peter and Fran were very generous and willing to collaborate, and I adored them both.” Throughout the project, Cook and his team drew inspiration from a variety of sources, although sometimes he didn’t realize an influence until years later. In The Fellowship of the Ring, for example, Gollum appears only briefly in a shot where he is seen mostly in shadow and his hands reach into frame. “I came up with that and animated it myself,” Cook explains. “A couple of years ago my daughter Matilda and I were watching Gunga Din, and at the end of the film, Sam Jaffe climbs to the top of the temple. You see the ledge and you see his hands come up, and I suddenly realized: ‘Son of a bitch! I stole that from Sam Jaffe!’ This past December marked the 20th anniversary of the debut of The Fellowship of the Ring. The film arrived in theaters just three months after terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the 9/11 tragedy cast a long shadow over the final months of post-production. “Peter and Fran called everybody together that morning,” Cook recalls, “and they were very sympathetic and solicitous to the Americans. Everybody was shocked, of course, but we still had a movie to finish. “One of the last sequences in Fellowship to go into production

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PROFILE

TOP TO BOTTOM: Cook standing in as Gollum with Elijah Wood for a practice shot on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol for Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Scene from King Kong (2005) with Cook playing one of the pilots who attack Kong atop the Empire State Building. Frank Darabont is his gunner. Cook and his Demon Lord creation for The Gate (1987).

was the prologue,” he adds. “The motion capture editor, Patrick Runyon, wanted my final approval on a shot of motion capture guys falling off a cliff in a rolling wave of bodies. But the week before I had watched live footage of real people jumping out the windows of the World Trade Center, and it was devastating. So, I said: ‘I trust you. If you think it’s fine, it’s fine, because I can’t look at that now.’” After The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Cook served as a second unit director for Jackson’s remake of King Kong. His duties included directing the first dinosaur attack involving a Ceratops that was cut out of the theatrical release but is included in the extended version. He also directed the flying planes that attack Kong atop the Empire State Building and played one of the pilots – writer/director Frank Darabont was his tail gunner. These days, Cook consults on a variety of projects and is hoping to direct Sinbad and the Sorcerer’s Bride, a fantasy he co-wrote with David Cairns that combines Hitchcockian suspense with the cheekiness of Ernst Lubitsch and the magic of Ray Harryhausen’s The 7 th Voyage of Sinbad. Cook saw 7th Voyage when he was seven and instantly fell in love with Harryhausen’s unique stop-motion approach known as Dynamation. Then, when he was 19, he met Harryhausen. “Ray’s mother lived in Los Angeles and her number was in the phone book,” he says. “I called her up to get his address in London, and Ray happened to be visiting at the time. I didn’t have anything to show except for a couple of drawings and a little makeup thing I’d done, but I wanted to meet and get a sense of him because his work meant so much to me. Somewhere along the line Ray saw the work I did for Caveman and other projects, and we became friends.”

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PROFILE

TOP TO BOTTOM: Forced perspective shots from The Gate. A workman falls on the floor and breaks into tiny minions. While the human teenagers appear to be behind the minions, they were actually in the foreground near the camera, perched on a normalscale set piece suspended 15 feet above a larger-scale set below. Cook and motion capture actor Andy Serkis reviewing a scene for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). Cook and Jim Rygiel at 2003 Academy Awards where they won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Cook won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for three consecutive years (2002, 2003 and 2004).

Harryhausen’s final film was 1981’s Clash of the Titans. Just 12 years later, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park introduced the world to CGI dinosaurs and, suddenly, Harryhausen’s Dynamation was considered passé. Even so, Cook says the effects master didn’t hold any hard feelings. “CGI is a whole different approach,” he explains. “With stopmotion, blinking eyes require three to six separate rubber lids or a piece of clay that’s put on and sculpted per frame. You wouldn’t have the lashes or the meniscus – you’d just have the blink. With CGI, a character’s blinking eyes can be a wonderful simulation of flesh and muscle and skin and the mucous membrane. And the eyeball – rather than a doll’s eye or an acrylic eye made in your own shop – can be a gelatinous, dilating organ that perfectly simulates the way the eye transmits light and reacts to outside light sources. “By the time CGI had arrived, Ray was a virtuoso in retirement who had no need or desire to learn a new instrument,” Cook adds. “Had Ray been born later I think he would have gotten CGI and created his illusions using a computer. As a boy I loved Ray’s films, but I was not reacting to stop-motion, I was reacting to Ray Harryhausen. I loved his work because of what that particular artist put into his work, and Ray just happened to be using stop-motion as his medium of expression.” Harryhausen passed away in 2013 at the age of 92, and Cook is an advisor to the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. Looking back on his own career, Cook recalls the night in 2002 when he won his first Academy Award for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. After the ceremony, Robert Redford came up to him and asked how it felt to hold an Oscar. “I said, ‘It feels wonderful. But four weeks ago, my boyhood idol, Ray Harryhausen, came down to New Zealand and brought with him the skeleton from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. I got to hold that, a thrill that has thrown this one into a slight shadow. Holding this Oscar is great, but the skeleton from Sinbad is why I got into the business.’”

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VFX OUTLOOK: FROM SWOON TO BOOM AND FULL SPEED AHEAD By CHRIS McGOWAN

TOP: Jurassic World: Dominion (Image courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Last year, while the movie and TV industry played catch-up with delayed projects, explored various release strategies and struck outsized production deals, the VFX sector invested heavily in remote work capabilities and achieved significant advancements in areas like virtual production. The stage was set for 2022, which looks to be a boom time for studios, streamers and the VFX business. “The amount of work out there is crazy right now,” says Ingenuity Studios founder and Visual Effects Supervisor David Lebensfeld. “I think that it’s just going to keep increasing, too, throughout 2022 and 2023. There was a backlog of projects that didn’t happen in 2020. So, it feels like everything has been compacted.” In addition, the streamers have forged ahead with their already ambitious original production plans. Lebensfeld comments, “Streamers are definitely impacting business positively. It’s more competitive than ever on the streamer side, with their ongoing content war. As a result, there’s so much work to be had. To be honest, I don’t think the industry has ever been bigger or busier.” In terms of deals, big can mean really big. Streamers and studios announced various nine-figure production packages in 2021. Netflix is paying an estimated $465 million for two sequels of the Lionsgate mystery Knives Out. The streamer has also struck a multi-year deal with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners. Apple TV+ will spend $200 million on Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle. Meanwhile, ViacomCBS (owner of streamer Paramount+) is reportedly paying $900 million for new South Park seasons through 2027 and 14 South Park feature films. Among various other major deals, Universal Pictures and its streaming sibling Peacock are spending an estimated $400 million+ for a new Exorcist trilogy. And in the year’s biggest deal of all, Amazon purchased MGM for $8.45 billion. Meanwhile, the streamers further fortified their positions last year by dominating the 2021 Emmy Awards, with Netflix taking best series (The Crown) and winning 44 Emmys, while HBO/HBO Max took 19, Disney+ captured 14, Apple TV+ took home 10 and

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VFX TRENDS

TOP TO BOTTOM: The Batman (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures) The Matrix Resurrections (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures) The Mandalorian (Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.)

NBC garnered 7. To emphasize their global reach, the streamers are spending heavily on U.S. and global programming. For example, Netflix has invested heavily in scripted originals for Japan and also planned to produce 40 anime releases last year. Furthermore, it said it would spend $500 million on films and series produced in South Korea in 2021. “The streaming landscape is more dynamic than ever,” says Albert Cheng, Chief Operating Officer at Amazon Studios. “With an audience who is increasingly hungry and tuned in, it has been so exciting to see content scale and evolve.” Pixomondo CEO Jonny Slow observes, “Long term, we think that the streaming model is very much here to stay, and it’s a more global and less regional business than linear TV, so the budgets are bigger and the creative ambition is high end.” For those companies releasing movies both in theaters and through streaming services, flexibility has been necessary to counter the pandemic, and experimentation will continue in 2022. One example is Disney. “We adopted a three-pronged strategy for releasing our films that consisted of theatrical releases, direct to Disney+ and a hybrid of theatrical plus Premier Access,” said Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek at an August 12 Earnings Conference Call. “Distribution decisions are made on a film-byfilm basis, based on global marketplace conditions and consumer behavior.” The pandemic has affected all sectors of film and TV, including VFX. Spin VFX President and Executive Producer Neishaw Ali observes, “The ongoing pandemic has created some good changes in that we now have a proven online production platform and have demonstrated that we can work effectively remotely.” Lebensfeld says that COVID “has really unlocked globalization of talent. Now that infrastructure has been put in place to optimize artists’ ability to work remotely, it’s working wonderfully but also requires a retooling in communication practices.” James Whitlam, Framestore Managing Director – Episodic, comments, “I think we’ll be seeing the ramifications of the pandemic for many years to come. In spite of the difficulties, the industry as a whole has become more resilient and self-assured, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how successful the working-from-home paradigm would be globally. The absence of a drop in overall productivity is testament to the agile nature of the business and the brilliant crews we work with.” Whitlam continues, “As we return to the studio, flexible working arrangements will no doubt put a strain on many companies as it involves more equipment, more support and greater management overhead to maintain a partially decentralized crew, but this needs to be weighed against providing a manageable work/life balance, which, along with the quality of the projects on offer and the culture of a company in the actual studio, is an important factor in any artist’s choice of where they decide to hang their hat.” Chris Healer, founder and CEO of Eyelash (formerly with The Molecule), believes that artists want to be more in control of their working environments now. “I can’t imagine most VFX artists will choose to get dressed in the morning to appear at an office. Some will. Most will take a second thought to listen to their music as loud

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VFX TRENDS

TOP TO BOTTOM: The Lord of the Rings (Image courtesy of Amazon Studios) The Last Duel (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios) Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Image courtesy of CBS All Access)

as possible, or choose days to socialize, or spend the day in their PJs. Many have just moved to a different location where they can’t come to the office.” Weta Digital’s Executive VFX Producer David Conley points out the pandemic’s complex effects. “While COVID has certainly accelerated trends like the growth of streaming content, the integration of LED panels and on-set virtualization, we’re only beginning to understand the downstream effects on the disruption of production pipelines. COVID has brought with it the increased reliance on remote work environments, increased complexities around content security requirements, and increased reliance on cloud-based technologies, to name a few issues, all of which will change the way we produce VFX-dependent content.” Virtual production, including LED stages, has also been having a deep impact on film production and post-production. Whitlam comments, “Framestore pioneered LED tech on Gravity a decade ago, so it’s been great to see how much LED Volumes have proliferated over the past two years.” Pixomondo had four total LED volumes in Toronto and Vancouver as of September and a deal with William F. White International to own and operate them together throughout Canada. Pixomondo’s Slow explains, “When everyone understands the workflow, they start to adapt their process and bring a lot of creative decisions forward. We are still only just getting started with how virtual production will impact production in the future.” Weta Digital’s Conley points to the rapid acceptance of virtual production, despite the learning curve. He explains, “We’re all still learning how best to use it and what the trade-offs are, but it’s clearly become normalized as a production option.” Virtual production took a leap forward with The Mandalorian’s use of ILM’s StageCraft integrated virtual production platform and its LED Volume. ILM Senior Vice President, Chief Creative Officer

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VFX TRENDS

TOP TO BOTTOM: Hawkeye (Image courtesy of Marvel Studios) Dune (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures) Spider-Man: No Way Home (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Rob Bredow notes, “Increasingly, we are seeing more filmmakers interested in learning about how they can best make use of virtual production and, specifically, how they can utilize our StageCraft LED stages to the greatest effect. With the demand for content at an all-time high, we believe virtual production will continue to attract filmmakers who are looking for collaborative solutions to challenging production and effects scenarios.” The VFX business has also been affected by the rise of the streamers and their increased production of series. Framestore’s Whitlam comments, “The episodic nature of a lot of the work being commissioned by the streamers is certainly a challenge industry wide, in terms of expectations of quality, shot count and the time available. Traditional feature film effects practitioners and companies are coming to terms with the different approach that is required to deliver 8 to 10 hours of content as opposed to two. The level of planning that needs to go into delivering a marquee show has opened the door for a lot more communication in pre-production between filmmakers and our team, which in turn leads to a lot more creative buy-in and ownership from the people crafting the effects. I think the overall effect on the business has been incredibly positive.” ILP (Important Looking Pirates) Executive Producer Måns Björklund adds, “There is an unseen – at least in my 20-plus years of the business – growth and amount of work out there at the moment. We are seeing horizons of work down in 2024, which hasn’t been the case before. Clients are starting to understand that they need to reach out and commit in a much earlier stage than before to be able to book resources. With the growth, there also comes the need for more artists to be able to produce all the content.” On the other hand, Lebensfeld notes, “There is more access to global talent, so VFX teams can leverage flexible schedules. You can essentially build a studio that runs around the clock to keep up with demand. Having talent from other countries can be a tremendous asset.”

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VFX TRENDS

TOP TO BOTTOM: Lightyear (Image courtesy of Pixar/Disney) Mobius (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures) Squid Game (Image courtesy of Netflix)

The cloud and AI are other important VFX factors. The cloud looks to grow in importance for VFX. Healer comments, “Many facilities are limited by machine power, and moving to cloud-based configurations means that limit may be removed. The irony is that no matter the limit, we will push it.” Weta’s Conley comments, “Many studios have been experimenting and building tools that use AI-assisted workflows and machine learning, and I expect we will see more of that work in production next year.” Spin VFX’s Ali says, “Machine learning is starting to show up in commercial software solutions. This trend will only continue, and we have just scratched the surface on the possible use cases. Adding more of an ability to direct the art output of these systems will be important. What is coming down the pike in realtime graphics in 2022 will be a game-changer. The quality and complexity of what can be accomplished in real-time will take a leap forward.” The pandemic arguably had an unexpected benefit in expanding the use of visual effects. Adds Lebensfeld, “Overall, I think people trust VFX more. You had to rely on it to do things that you could usually do in physical production pre-COVID. VFX has really proved its worth during COVID, and more people are comfortable with it. Turning to VFX even allowed for more safety. You couldn’t fill an auditorium with 200 people, so you did it digitally. An additional benefit is that VFX also allows for redundancy. So, if you don’t get what you need on the day, you still have options in post.” Conley is enthused about the future of VFX. “There’s a lot to be excited about in 2022. We expect to see continued growth in the visual effects industry resulting from increased content creation across theatrical and streaming releases. Along with the growth in content, we’re seeing a diversification of creative and technical opportunities to help filmmakers tell their stories across a spectrum of budgets. Thanks to innovations in technology and technique, I am excited to see how VFX will continue to be further integrated into the filmmaking process in unique ways, providing more creative challenges for VFX artists across the industry.”

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MONSTERS FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT MENACE THE WITCHER By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Netflix. TOP: Along with battling monsters, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) had to fend off COVID-19 while making Season 2 of The Witcher.

While Season 1 of The Witcher was driven by Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) trying to find Princess Cirilla (Freya Allan) of Cintra before the Kingdom of Nilfgaard has an opportunity to capture and use her as a supernatural weapon of mass destruction, Season 2 brings them together and explores the theme of fatherhood as kings, elves, humans and demons battle for control of the Continent. An outside force that had to be accounted for was the pandemic that caused the production to go on hiatus a couple of times and shift the locations from Hungary to the U.K. Enabling the Netflix series creator, Executive Producer and showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich (The Umbrella Academy), not to compromise her vision was the visual effects team led by Visual Effects Supervisor Dadi Einarsson (Everest) and Visual Effects Producer Gavin Round (Adrift), as well as Production Designer Andrew Laws (Warrior) and Special Effects Supervisor Stefano Pepin (The Last Duel). Traveling with a production crew that consists of 400 to 800 members into other countries was not a viable option. “We had to look to expand the world of The Witcher in a virtual rather than real way,” states Schmidt Hissrich. “Dadi Einarsson was living back home in Iceland during the pandemic and organized a huge plate shoot there that ended up being integral to our entire season.” Andrew Laws is an integral part of the world building as he has been involved with the first two seasons and is looking after the spinoff, The Witcher: Blood Origin. “For the most part we were

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TOP TO BOTTOM: Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) trains Princess Cirilla (Freya Allan) at Kaer Morhen, which is where he learned how to become a witcher. A Bruxa is a powerful vampire that often disguises itself as a dark-haired young woman. Production Designer Andrew Laws is an integral part of the world-building as he has been involved with the first two seasons as well as the spinoff The Witcher: Blood Origin.

looking at entirely new environments,” remarks Laws. “Sets were rebuilt in the U.K. Some locations were moved to the studio where there was enough space to create environments that worked for us. Because of already having an understanding of the world, we were able to concentrate on a lot more detail in Season 2.” From the beginning of the production, the department heads are given a season arc document. “Better prepared departments lead to a better product, and I want people’s opinions and honesty,” notes Schmidt Hissirch. “I will fight for what I believe in, too. For instance, in Season 2 there is a large sequence that from the beginning we knew was going to be incredibly expensive. I wanted Ciri to be on an obstacle course situated on the edge of a cliff running drills. It was so important to see Ciri grow from being a princess to a warrior. Because early on all of the departments saw things in outline, we were able to appropriately prepare for it. If you have prep you can do anything. There was only one shot that did not have visual effects in it. There were set extensions, wire removal and snow. It’s an incredible sequence.” Combining the ambition of Season 2 with the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic and actor availability, the visual effects shots increased to 2,500 from 1,100 for the eight episodes of Season 1. “We brought in more vendors because we were keen to leapfrog certain vendors with each episode,” reveals Gavin Round. “We wanted to avoid the bottleneck situation that we had on Season 1 by having our main vendor on Episode 201 not being the main one on Episode 202.” RVX VFX, Rodeo FX, Mr. X and ILM were brought in to share the workload with returning vendors Cinesite, One of Us and Platige. “There are 50 shared shots, which isn’t very much. Things get invented and developed in the cut that we didn’t necessarily plan for. We had our own in-house team of five compositors who looked after 600 shots that involved cosmetic fixes like wire removals.” It was important to plan ahead rather than wait for editorial turnovers. “We would try to get a couple of key shots that we thought were going to stay in each episode and turn those over just after the director’s cut,” explains Round. “Then at a certain point in the editorial process we would grab the whole creature sequence within a given episode.” No new technology had to be invented to complete the work. States Dadi Einarsson, “Gavin and I would breakdown the script together. We would imagine the technique and methodology, and fit the right vendor to that based on our experiences or ideas of who would be a good fit.” An AR software called Cyclops was provided by The Third Floor. “It has a low intrusiveness,” notes Einarsson. “You walk around with an iPad that has been calibrated and can see around you a set extension or a creature. It was particularly useful in helping the director, DP and camera operators to frame shots.” A virtual reality approach was adopted by the art department. “We had moved into a much more symbiotic process with visual effects that we decided to move a lot of the modeling into Unreal Engine,” notes Laws. “It allowed us to know where the baton was being handed between the physical and digital environment, while directors were able to stand in the environment and know over that wall was an extension of a crumbling tower.”

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TOP TO BOTTOM: A central environment for Season 2 is Kaer Morhen, which needed to feel lived in as well as a hidden gem in the mountains. Concept art for the cursed witcher known as Nivellen. A series of tests for the monster known as Leshy, which is woodland spirit. The witcher known as Eskel gets infected by Queen Leshy and turns into an eight-foot-tall sprouting-vine monster.

Story always comes first for Schmidt Hissrich. “In Season 2 there are sentient monsters that aren’t just bloodthirsty. It is important for us to understand that they are thinking and feeling.” The creatures from Season 1 will not be reappearing. “We don’t like to repeat ourselves,” states Laws. “There has been real growth on the monster side. We work in ZBrush from the ground up to understand the movement and how the creature is going to take shape in all dimensions. It’s a much more fluid process. Once we have established a ZBrush model that has an organic shape, we’ll do some overpainting to get the mood of the creature. When it is agreed upon how that is going to work then the 3D model goes out to visual effects and the vendors to bring in the detail and movement.” There is no shortage of great creature sequences. “ILM was a perfect partner for a talking character,” remarks Einarsson. “Rodeo FX is doing Eskel [played by Thue Ersted Rasmussen], a witcher who gets infected by the Queen Leshy [woodland spirit] and turns into an eight-foot-tall sprouting vine monster that has an epic fight with Geralt. The pace and way that the fight pans out is believable in cinema language. They also did the Myriapod, which is like a big, mutated centipede. Cinesite is doing Basilisk, which are traditionally a mashup of a bird and snake. It’s huge as well. Three of them have a massive fight with all of the witchers. It spills out in the terrace bridge area in Kaer Morhen. That looks quite epic. Any kind of mashup of creatures we will find good reference and, if you veer away from that, you go until it feels unbelievable and back off a bit.” Stunts had a key role to play when choreographing the creature fight scenes. “We had a good relationship with stunt coordinator Adam Horton [The Outpost],” states Round. “We could riff back and forth on ideas on how to kill the monster. Stunt performers wore green suits with proxy creature parts which was a big help in composing shots and providing something that the actors could see and hit.” Time was always a looming factor. “In modern-day film and TV productions you get time to prep in pre-production, but once that ball starts to roll you have to think on your feet,” observes Stefano Pepin. “We did a lot of testing and show-and-tells. We had specific meetings about particular gags for episodes and also had liaisons with the first ADs. Dadi and the visual effects team did a lot of previs for us. We did two to three days of element shoots and did elements all the way through the show. A lot of stuff that was going on in the monster fights wasn’t actually there, so we were making things crash, break, drop and move. There’s constant fire in The Witcher, such as campfires and lanterns. For the Great Hall, we had 40 sources of fire which were fed with gas. Rarely did a scene not have any atmospherics. We had movement platforms with the biggest ones being for the boats in the harbor. Also, a series of doors were made in different states of melting; that was a good combination of special and visual effects.” A significant setting in Season 2 that was introduced in the animated spinoff The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is Kaer Morhen, where Geralt spent his childhood. The destroyed castle serves as a safe refuge and training ground for him and Ciri. “Ciri has lost her entire family and Geralt still has some family left, so it felt that next right step is for Geralt to take her to his home,” remarks Schmidt Hissrich. “Andrew Laws, Dadi and I talked about how do we build something that feels as if people live in it and is also a hidden gem

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in the mountains.” Interiors and exteriors within the castle were constructed at Arborfield Studios. “Kaer Morhen has such a great backstory of what’s in it,” notes Laws. “The lower bailey walls where you enter the castle are left completely damaged, and the witchers utilize the remnant structure for training.” A full CG asset was built of the castle, and the surrounding environment was composited with practical elements. “It was based on Old Man of Storr in Scotland and augmented with glaciers from Iceland,” states Round. “There was practical destruction constructed by Andrew that we could riff off of for CG. We had a skeleton of a creature that had been left there for years to rot.” A cliff wall was built for the obstacle course, which is supposed to be a 10-minute walk from Kaer Morhen. “It is a training gauntlet with swinging pendulums and spikes that Ciri has to figure out how to dodge, and that’s part of her training to become a witcher,” states Einarsson. “Once we had match moved all of our cameras, in every view behind Ciri, Kaer Morhen can be seen in the background. Within non-contrived cinematography, we were able to give

TOP: With travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, the decision was made to shoot in the U.K. with sets being rebuilt and some locations being moved to Arborfield Studios. BOTTOM: Previs of an epic fight that Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) has with a transformed Eskel (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) within the confines of Kaer Morhen.

people a sense of where they sit in that environment. There is the piece that she’s on, a backing rockface, and then all of the views left to right are greenscreen. The special effects department blew wind and practical snow to get that base-level snowdrift and interaction. Stunts figured out all of the action that Ciri does on the obstacle course and put her on a safety wire and did the mats.” When it comes to magic, a little goes a long way. “My goal is to see the impact of the magic more than the magic itself,” remarks Schmidt Hissrich. “I like to see how people escape into a portal, but don’t necessarily need to seem them vomited out on the other side.” Einarsson agrees. “Given that it’s a magic show, we do try to be elegant and subtle in how it’s visually represented, rather than super-saturated and in your face.” New magic is introduced for the witchers, reveals Round. “We get to see Igni [pyrokinetic bursts that can start fires and ignite opponents] and Yrden [a magical sign inscribed on a solid surface that scares off monsters].” The greatest threat to the Continent is the supernatural force within Ciri that is influenced by her emotional state. “One of the things that Ciri tries to do in Season 2 is to restrain her power even more,” states Schmidt Hissrich. “That never goes well! We see some more explosions of power coming from her, and it’s fun because we’ve not been able to play with it that often. This time she is present and seeing the impact of this power. It drives her into stories for future seasons.” “Once we had a successful Season 1 under our belt, we started dreaming a lot bigger for Season 2,” remarks Schmidt Hissrich. “The perfect example of that is a character that we introduce in Episode 201 called Nivellen [Kristofer Hivju], a boar bear of a man who has been cursed and turned into a monster.” Nivelle is also a season highlight for Einarsson. “Nivellen spends half the episode acting opposite Geralt. It was basically a head-mounted camera taking the performance from Kristofer Hivju and mapping and interpreting that into a boar monster. He is a biped, so we basically used Kristofer’s body and recreated the head completely. It’s very intuitive for the acting. The eyelines matched. Nivellen is a charming and compelling character. I can’t imagine the process going any better than it did.” “Because we had more prep on Episode 208, which may have been on the part of COVID-19, we were able to plan the big creature finale really well with stunts and the director,” states Round. “We honed it down so we knew exactly what and how we were going to shoot it. When it came to cut the scene with the editor, he had all of the storyboards, previs and stuntvis to work from. We sat with him, and the scene is satisfyingly close to how we imagined it.” Schmidt Hissrich is proud of the obstacle course sequence. “If only because at the beginning there were conversations about it being too expensive and whether we should cut it. Because of the growth that it shows in Ciri, I can’t fathom not having it. There is a great monster sequence that I’m constantly in visual effects reviews saying, ‘I can’t believe how often we see the monster.’ It’s everywhere! That’s something the team has excelled at this year. These monsters are so thoroughly integrated into the show that it’s incredible.”

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ANIMATION

NEW ADVENTURES IN THE EXPANDING REALM OF ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE By TREVOR HOGG

TOP: Initially, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg were going to produce an animated trilogy starting with The Adventures of Tintin, but the sequel has yet to be released. (Image courtesy of Weta Digital and Paramount Pictures) OPPOSITE TOP: An illustrative animation style was adopted by Sony Pictures Imageworks for The Mitchells vs. the Machines. (Image courtesy of Netflix) OPPOSITE BOTTOM: The short Beans was the first foray of Cinesite into the world of animation. (Image courtesy of Cinesite)

During the coronavirus pandemic it was announced that Weta Digital and RISE VFX will be making animated features. Combining visual effects with animation has become more attractive with the growing demand for animated content driven by streamers such as Netflix. From a talent and technology perspective, there is already an infrastructure to build upon which helps to mitigate the expenses usually associated with a start-up venture. There is also the advantage of not being so heavily reliant on live-action projects that are susceptible to delays and shrinking post-production schedules. The business model is sustainable as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Animal Logic and Cinesite have multiple animated features in various stages of production. DNEG Animation is following these animation innovators and creating its co-production debut, Ron’s Gone Wrong. At the forefront has been Sony Pictures Imageworks, which partnered with filmmaker Robert Zemeckis on The Polar Express (2004) and went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). “There are lots of great things and overlap in doing CG and live-action features, but they are different,” states Michelle Grady, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Sony Pictures Imageworks. “You have to understand the strengths and challenges of each to do both well. In live-action you need a lot of parameters on character rigs to get them to perform in a way that is photoreal. You want to remove

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“There are lots of great things and overlap in doing CG and live-action features, but they are different. You have to understand the strengths and challenges of each to do both well. ... Also, the technology and production pipelines, the way that you interact with your client, and the priorities are really different in some ways. We have been doing both since the early 2000s, so we have a lot of practice in negotiating the balance.” —Michelle Grady, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sony Pictures Imageworks those parameters in order to be flexible, creative and out of the box as CG features demand. Also, the technology and production pipelines, the way that you interact with your client, and the priorities are really different in some ways. We have been doing both since the early 2000s so we have a lot of practice in negotiating the balance. Even how you set up a show, whether that would be pipeline, finance or production, has to be consistent or else it’s just mayhem; that becomes the framework. Once you’ve got that framework in place, you have to give each snowflake enough room to be able to problem-solve in their own unique way.” A turning point for Animal Logic was working with filmmaker George Miller on Happy Feet (2006) and subsequently becoming known for establishing The LEGO Movie franchise. “I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or just the changing nature of the industry [that is causing more visual effects companies to explore making

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ANIMATION

TOP TO BOTTOM: Locksmith Animation collaborated with DNEG Animation to produce their feature debut Ron’s Gone Wrong. (Image courtesy of Walt Disney) Cinesite launched an animated feature franchise with the release of The Addams Family. (Image courtesy of Cinesite and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures) Weta Digital has become renown for creating photorealistic CG characters such as Caesar in the prequel trilogy of The Planet of the Apes. (Image courtesy of Weta Digital and Twentieth Century Fox)

animated features],” notes Ingrid Johnston, Head of Production at Animal Logic. “There is an explosion in demand for animated features. Historically, they’ve done well at the box office and are seen as a safe bet by studios.” One of the reasons that Animal Logic enjoys working on animated features is being able to partner with studios and filmmakers on the entire production. “Some animated studios have a house style and are building on their technology in a logical way so the films come from the same universe stylistically,” observes Johnston, “whereas Animal Logic has gone from penguins to owls to plastic bricks to realistic bunnies. Even the films that we have coming up, they all look different but are all exciting to us because of who we are working with and what the movie is.” “The Vancouver studio was opened specifically to service animated fare that fell under the umbrella of our deal with Warner Bros.,” remarks Cabral Rock, General Manager at Animal Logic. “The Sydney studio was always bisected doing both animated and visual effects work. They have transitioned in recent years to focusing exclusively on animated fare, but the visual effects capability is still there. We reserve judgment for certain filmmaking partners whom we want to work with again. We have a presence in Los Angeles as well servicing our filmmaking partners there. We have our story and development teams at Animal Logic Entertainment and Truant Pictures. A significant IT infrastructure is based in Los Angeles to support the other sites. There are some restrictions around tax incentives and where the workforce is claimed, but if a project in Vancouver is getting a slowdown in assets and a project in Sydney is still full-steam ahead, there is some flexibility to shift resources across sites.” Streaming services have democratized the type of content being produced. “There was a time not too long ago,” comments Rock, “if you weren’t opening on 4,000 screens nationwide, your movie didn’t have much of a chance of finding an audience and taking root. But that’s not the case anymore. Anybody who has a phone or a broadband connection has access now.” Cinesite started off collaborating with Sony Pictures Animation and the Jim Henson Company on The Star (2017) and has gone on to launch The Addams Family franchise with MGM Studios. “The biggest difference is that with visual effects we will be staffing according to the type of shots that we’re going to deliver for a movie but we’re not making the whole thing,” observes Eamonn Butler, Head of the Animation Division at Cinesite. “In animation you’re making everything, so you start with story and editorial, go into building assets [modeling, texturing] and finally animation. It is a long-established process. It’s all plannable.” The Montreal studio was built from the ground up,” he says. “Everybody had to be hired for every department. Now we have an established crew, excellent pipeline, and the capacity to handle two movies at the same time. But it takes many years to build that crew up to that standard. Training is always important. It’s something we try to do in downtime between shows. Mentorship is important too. Bringing in senior talent with lots of creative experience, it’s inspiring to younger artists and can help them avoid making bad choices in their performances or will lift their abilities and give them instant wisdom. The combination of training and leadership is important, and is something that we absolutely foster in the company.”

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ANIMATION

TOP TO BOTTOM: The debut animated feature for Animal Logic was their collaboration with filmmaker George Miller on Happy Feet. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros.) Sony Pictures Imageworks breaks out into song with Lin-Manuel Miranda in Vivo. (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures) Cinesite’s VFX work on the Kikimora spider for The Witcher. (Image courtesy of Cinesite and Netflix)

Emerging from the shadows with the release of Ron’s Gone Wrong is DNEG Animation, which was established in 2014. “The first two years was entirely spent on prep,” states Tom Jacomb, President at DNEG Animation. “It was looking at what the visual effects studio had, and seeing where the differences were and where we were going to be lacking for a feature animation pipeline and talent. We were trying to build a strong artistic team to be able to do that. That takes time. You can’t just take it on and start on day one.” DNEG having the ability to push through a vast number of renders and shots at scale for shows like Fast & Furious meant that their animation studio did not have to begin from scratch. “There are huge benefits in the way that we work and do things in animation,” adds Jacomb. “It’s methodical and planned. You’re able to look at a schedule two and a half years down the line and say, ‘This is what I’m doing at this stage.’ That is something visual effects doesn’t often have the opportunity to do.” DNEG Animation is a separate studio within the visual effects company. “You may be able to leverage 80% of a talent set from a certain department or pipeline, but the 20% that is different, you have to make sure is taken care of,” notes David Prescott, Senior Vice President of Creative Production at DNEG Animation. “Previs in animation is a lot of the same toolset used for live-action, but a lot of the time what the directors are trying to get out of the process is something different. I know that a lot of people see visual effects and animation colliding closely together. There are live-action directors and producers who have cool properties that they haven’t figured out how to do because coming to the market with high-end animated projects wasn’t a thing even five years ago. DNEG Animation allows them to bring those projects to the table. Within that realm, there are a lot of properties out there that have a different storytelling method animation is used to, like more long series story arcs. The properties that we have right now from Ron’s Gone Wrong to the short film, Mr. Spam Gets A New Hat, to the other projects coming out after that are all different filmmakers and styles of storytelling.” Despite Weta Animated being a new venture, Weta Digital had previously combined motion capture and animation for Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and has become renowned for crafting CG characters, like Gollum, Caesar, Thanos and Alita. “Creating our own animated content has long been a dream for our founders, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, as well as many of us across the business,” states Prem Akkaraju, CEO at Weta Digital. “It’s a natural extension of the creative energy and work at Weta Digital. We consider our visual effects background a strength as the scope of visual effects work has moved well beyond photorealism, so the style of our work is driven more by the director’s vision and creativity than reality or the laws of physics. This lends itself well to animation where there is even more freedom to let your imagination guide the worlds and stories you create.” Weta Digital’s new cloud-based software service will be a key component in creating next-generation animation pipelines that enable collaborations with artists from around the world. “Ultimately,” states Akkaraju, “our goal is to pursue excellence in storytelling and creativity, unlock the imaginations of some of our generation’s greatest storytellers and make thoroughly entertaining animations.”

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Congratulations to the VES on your 25th Anniversary from your friends at Arcadia SFX.

Congratulations to the Visual Effects Society on 25 years of fostering magic from your friends at Warner Brothers.

WWW.ARCADIASFX.COM

The VES congratulates all its members, past and present, for their many important contributions to our growth over the past 25 years.

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TV/STREAMING

LIGHTING THE SPARK OF LIFE THAT TURNS THE WHEEL OF TIME By TREVOR HOGG

Images copyright © 2020 Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Amazon Content Services LLC. TOP: The Wheel of Time has a diverse cast which includes Zoë Robins, Barney Harris, Daniel Henney, Rosamund Pike, Madeleine Madden, Marcus Rutherford and Josha Stradowski.

An epic fantasy series conceived by Robert Jordan, where the past and future coexist simultaneously and a select group of individuals have the ability to channel the forces of nature, has been adapted for Prime Video. Overseeing the production of The Wheel of Time, which has been renewed for a second season, is creator, Executive Producer and Showrunner Rafe Judkins (Hemlock Grove), who collaborated with Production Designer Ondrej Nekvasil (Snowpiercer), Visual Effects Supervisor Julian Parry (The Witcher) and Special Effects Supervisor Ondrej Nierostek (Carnival Row) to make his cinematic vision a reality. Considering the literary inspiration and influence of The Wheel of Time, Rafe Judkins had to balance being authentic to the source material while not feeling too derivative. “As much as possible we tried to lean into the stuff that is fresh to television audiences.” The biggest job was condensing the narrative for the eight episodes of the first season. “When the writers’ room was getting started,” Judkins observes, “we hired a bunch of concept artists from around the world, coming from different backgrounds, genres and mediums to tackle some of the big elements of the show. What does channeling, Trollocs, Fades and the landscape of this broken world look like? Then working with our heads of departments and an internal concept team, we took those ideas and began to flesh them out into this world.”

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Congratulations

To the Visual Effects Society

For 25 years of Excellence and Innovation Looking forward to our continued partnership as we collaborate to Advance the craft of visual effects around the world, Support talent with ongoing education, Promote diversity across the community and Celebrate our industry’s accomplishments.

From your peers in Visual Effects & Production Innovation

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TOP: Lan Mondragoran (Daniel Henney) and Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) take a breather on their journey to find the one who is fated to destroy and save the world. MIDDLE AND BOTTOM: The setting influenced the selection of building materials used for each of the villages featured in the series.

The Wheel of Time is a cultural melting pot. “The first conversation that Rafe and I had in 2018 was about the cast and the concept of the world,” explains Nekvasil. “You have a village in the mountains with all of these different cultures influencing each other, which means that the style of the architecture is a mixture of everything that we know. I used elements from Asia, Europe, Africa and South America to create our own culture. The mountains look like the Alps, but the village is a mixture of European Alps plus a little bit of China and Malaysia.” The setting influenced the selection of building materials. Adds Nekvasil, “It was in the middle of a pine tree forest, so it would be a wooden village that is situated on a lake, and we are also using clay and straw. Our mood boards were always a mixture of different styles and cultures.”As for technology and vehicles, the first season is set in 16th or 17th century Europe. “There is no black powder, which means that they don’t have shotguns. Everything is about swords, spears and arrows,” he says. Nierostek enjoyed the opportunity to work in the fantasy genre. “We did smoke, rain, wind and snow to make the look of the show more dramatic and realistic. There was a huge scene in Two Rivers village where we had to create a large amount of rain. Smoke, rain and wind seems like an easy effect, but this is not the case. The lighting especially at night is different for each camera. We got rain towers and spinners above the set. When the shooting starts you cope with the rain, and for one camera it looks great and another it is too heavy, or there is nothing. Sometimes visual effects will come and say do not worry because they have tools to improve the rain.” Also in the effects realm of interacting with a body water, the Taren Ferry was constructed to make a crossing. “We built a floating boat to carry the hero actors and horses across a lake,” says Nierostek. “There were underwater pulleys and cables, and we had an engine just in case something fails. This was one of the first gags to get shot.” Relying entirely on greenscreen was not an option. “One thing that was important for me from the beginning was that this world feel authentic and real,” explains Judkins. “Even for the actors and crew, trying to go to places and, as much as we can, put stuff in camera, even if we end up augmenting or enhancing it later with visual effects. There is a scene where two of our leads, Rand al’Thor [Josha Stradowski] and Egwene Al’Vere [Madeleine Madden], have a conversation sitting on a rock looking down at their home in this Alpine environment. We could have easily used a rock with some grass around it in Prague, but we actually took the actors to the top of a huge mountain pass in Slovenia. What we did was add in their home village of the Two Rivers and the two actual rivers at the bottom of the shot, but the rest of it is in camera.” Because of the pandemic, a shoot had to be shifted to a quarry near Prague. “We had plans to go to the Canary Islands for the final block of Season 1,” notes Judkins, “but because of COVID-19 we were not able to do that. It had been scouted, so we sent our drone and visual effects teams to build where we were going to go into a 3D digital world that we could then put our actors into.” “For the village, we are using a lot of CNC [Computer Numerical Controlled] cards for the details and carvings,” states Nekvasil.

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TOP TWO: Certain characters like Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) can channel the One Power, an ethereal energy that combines elements of wind, spirit, earth, air and fire. BOTTOM TWO: Practical and CG elements were combined to create the evil creatures known as Trollocs.

“There were some carve details that were like a 2D CNC card, carved into the wood, and that was then given to a woodmaker. It is always a mixture of high and low tech. The high tech helps to make the basic shape and pattern, and after that the skills of a cabinetmaker or woodmaker can give the feeling of the carving and details. The most challenging set was the place called The Blight, which is described differently in the books. It’s a strange forest organism that is able to kill everything, and is supposed to look alive but is not alive. You need a lot of good sculptors to work with you to create the organic shape that you are looking for. If you have something more architectural, you can always do proper prints for the details. I hope that the audience will enjoy it.” Digital extensions expanded the scope of the big-scale sets. Adds Nekvasil, “We share all of the information in regards to references for the styles and designs. We do SketchUp models which can be transferred into Maya and be used as base for visual effects.” Despite visual effects having a supporting role, the shot count for the eight episodes totaled 3,500 and were divided among Cinesite, MPC, Union VFX, Automatik VFX, RISE, Framestore, Ombrium VFX, Scanline VFX, Outpost VFX, DNEG and in-house Zissis. “I tried to avoid shot sharing because moving stuff from one vendor to another takes time and on television it’s all about time,” states Parry. “When the pandemic struck, we carried on with the previs and had an animatic of Episode 108 by the time we went back into production in September 2020.” It is important to have aspects of the familiar even when developing supernatural powers, says Parry. “I try to ground all of the ideas in some kind of reality. If things are a bit too fantastical, the audience might not be as engaged. When there is a lot of thought put into the effect and people believe the philosophies, there is more of a chance of them buying into the story.” “If possible, I like to keep things within the set and shoot above the line. We couldn’t avoid bluescreen or greenscreen,” remarks Parry. “The world building was managed by Ondrej Nekvasil and the art department team. Any questions that I had for that I would go back to Ondrej, who would give me countless designs and concepts; that collaboration was great. They went to fantastic locations in and around Prague and a short flight away in Slovenia. A lot of those vistas are there, but they also gave us the guideline to how our world had to be, which was to keep the scope and scale there. In Episode 102, there is a city we go to called Shadar Logoth, and that’s big lensing, vistas, establishing shots, and that was something which was consistent over the episodes.” Collaboration is paramount. “When you’re working with the stunt teams and special effects, you’re getting the best of both worlds,” observes Parry. “It’s about having conversations. If we’re doing stunts on wires, you make sure that they’re not crossing the face.” Digital doubles were extensively used for the armies and creature replication. “In these types of shows, for safety reasons we do prop replacements. When you get an axe close frame, it’s not holding up,” says Parry. “You can see it’s fiberglass and a blunt edge. We were doing a lot of classic weapon repair. Also, when it came to stabbings or other contact moments, we were having to use the 3D extensions.”

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TOP TWO: Circular shapes were incorporated into the production design as a thematic element. BOTTOM TWO: Approximately 3,500 visual shots were divided among Cinesite, MPC, Union VFX, Automatik VFX, RISE, Framestore, Ombrium VFX, Scanline VFX, Outpost VFX, DNEG and in-house Zissis.

Magic is ingrained into the narrative. “Moiraine [Rosamund Pike] draws upon the One Power, an ethereal energy that surrounds the character,” explains Parry. “It is called ‘channeling’ and is heavily written about by Robert Jordan, so we had quite a bit of source information. We designed that magic from the ground up because it needed to be called upon many times throughout the series. What you’re looking at is called the ‘Weave,’ which has five different layers [wind, spirit, earth, air and fire] to it. The research to understand the physics of it helped to inform the people around us while filming what exactly is going on.” Each element being channeled is given a different color. “Our channeling is predominantly white, but if you look closely there are hints of the different colors,” notes Judkins. “As different things are woven together, you get a slightly different color as well. We looked at closeups of cosmic particles, flames being brought up for the first time, and ink moving through oil. The elements of those that worked best were blended together to create the look of channeling.” Parry has been involved with producing creatures for 30 years. “The choice was made early on to go with physical creatures in the room. Our Makeup Effects Supervisor, Nick Dudman [Penny Dreadful], provided us with a seven-foot Trolloc, but we couldn’t have hundreds of them, which were needed for the show. We were lucky to have the hero Trolloc for eyelines and performance, and in post-production we would enhance those creatures.” Critical was having a fast editorial turnover. Observes Parry, “This stuff on a feature film timeline is difficult enough and on a television timeline it’s madness! We worked with post-production handin-hand. ‘We need a turnover of this... A blocking sequence.’ In this case, we would get it over to MPC for them to start roughing out the blocking of the animation. We had enough time to put the blocking in for Rafe and the directors to see how it was all looking, to get their notes back to make the alterations, and then go on to develop the final shot. “The biggest challenge has to be the expectation of doing these high-end visual effects projects on TV schedules and budgets,” continues Parry. “More and more I’m dealing with ‘feature film standard’ expectations with half the time and half the budget, but somehow we do it, and coupled with COVID-19, it was a challenge and then some.” Events mentioned but not described in the books have been brought to life. “Amazon has given us the resources to bring something incredible to life, and people will be excited to see the Battle of Two Rivers for the first time,” notes Judkins. “As we move into future seasons, we keep going to new worlds within the world of The Wheel of Time, so we are developing new cultures, characters, visual effects and creatures. But we now have this foundation of the first season to look at and see whether these new things are too different or different enough. It gives you a point of comparison from which to approach everything, which is a much easier process than that first ideation phase.”

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[ VES SECTION SPOTLIGHT: MONTREAL ]

Montreal Revisited: Riding the Canadian VFX Wave By NAOMI GOLDMAN

TOP TO BOTTOM: Philipp Wolf, VES Montreal Section Chair. VES Montreal leadership and members. VES Montreal members enjoying their festive annual Super Mega Party. Pub Night at 4 Origins microbrewery.

The VES’s international presence gets stronger every year, and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and all that they do to advance the Society and bring people together. During the challenging last two years, the Montreal Section exemplified the spirit of community and adapted to deliver compelling online experiences and content to replace live events and keep the tether strong among the membership – thriving at about 180 members – and the local industry. Throughout the pandemic, the Section Board of Managers focused on producing and collaborating on diverse virtual programming, featuring an array of networking events, industry educational programs, resources and roundtables. These included an ACM SIGGRAPH webinar on the challenges of working from home and a comprehensive COVID-19 Resources web page for members; an interactive “Virtual Production 101 and Green Screen” conversation; a virtual spin on the annual Super Mega Party; Fortunato Frattasio presenting a forum to give students the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals; Marine Lelièvre hosting a networking event featuring a VFX portfolio review to provide resources to the next generation of artists and practitioners; and online hangouts for casual chats and networking. The programming roster included a dynamic session about Foundry’s vision for AI and machine learning and how CopyCat assists artist workflows, featuring Foundry’s Director of Product for New Technology Mathieu Mazerolle and Creative Specialist DJ Matias, who demonstrated practical examples of how to build your own neural network; and a panel discussion “Inside the Brain of VFX-Animation Hiring Managers,” with a deep dive into human resource decision-making around hiring, from technical to human skills, including speakers from rhum – humans and resources – as well as DNEG and Squeeze Animation Studio. “We hosted webinars and virtual screenings for our membership to keep a sense of camaraderie and reinforce that we are there for one another, and the events were well received. In conjunction with a number of our sister sections, the East Coast Netflix Parties were a lot of fun and very successful to help keep everyone’s spirits up – and as an opportunity to network and invite in prospective new members, even while people were hungry for live contact. We took our VES mission to heart and worked to keep our members connected and feeling supported however we could,” says Philipp Wolf, Montreal Section Chair.

Once the Section returned to a “green zone” COVID status, they started pivoting back to in-person events, including their first pub night in more than a year at 4 Origins microbrewery; and more recently, a much-anticipated return to live screenings. “I really feel that our community grew even stronger during the pandemic, and the situation pushed us to create new events on our own, and in collaboration with our fellow Sections,” says Wolf. “As we head into 2022, our Section Board of Managers plans to channel this momentum as we develop programs, advocate and build our membership and alliances, and find a meaningful and festive way to properly celebrate the Society’s milestone 25th anniversary,” continues Wolf. “There are about 6,500 VFX professionals in Montreal, so there is a lot of room for growth and many opportunities to share our collective knowledge and support this industry. And we have the energy and vision to achieve our goals.” Wolf also points to a source of pride in the VES’s new global Health and Wellbeing Committee, which he co-chairs with Emma Clifton Perry, VES 1st Vice Chair, and the support for these vital efforts in the Montreal community. “Last summer, the Health and Wellbeing Committee launched “Reignite Yourself – Instruments to Face Daily Life,” a five-part webinar series around mental health to support the worldwide visual effects industry,” says Wolf. “This VES initiative to destigmatize mental health was the result of strong collaboration with the Québec Film and Television Council and funding from the City of Montreal, and our shared commitment to making the fast-paced animation and visual effects environment a safer, healthier and more equitable space for artists and practitioners worldwide. As the producer/creator of the series, I’m particularly proud of that genesis and backing here in Montreal. This investment in our community’s mental health, along with the amazing new VES Member Assistance Program providing 24/7 access to counseling services to our members worldwide, is such an important direction and really speaks to how we care about our members as people.” “Let me add a love letter to Montreal,” Wolf concludes. “Our Section operates in the heart of the city. As a worldwide hub of VFX, Montreal is a great place to work. And with our diversity, quality of life, amazing culture, beautiful surroundings and a relatively low cost of living, we have a wonderful quality of life here. Montreal is so special and our Section is proud to thrive here at the center point.”

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[ THE VES HANDBOOK ]

Game Engines and Real-Time Rendering By DAVID JOHNSON, VES Edited for this publication by Jeffrey A. Okun, VES Abstracted from The VES Handbook of Visual Effects – 3rd Edition Edited by Jeffrey A. Okun, VES and Susan Zwerman, VES

Figure 8.1 Screen capture of Call of Duty: Ghosts. (Image courtesy of Activision/ Blizzard. Copyright © 2013)

Rendering starts with a chunk of memory that contains the positions of each model in the scene, definitions for all of the lights in the scene and a set of parameters defining the settings for the post-processing, and it ends with all the final colored pixels that make up the presented image. In the middle of this process, a series of steps occur, the specifics of which will vary from engine to engine as well as depending on the type of rendering being used. The starting point for a renderer is the frame buffer: a chunk of memory that represents the canvas that each draw call will resolve to. “Double-buffered rendering” is a common technique that allows the renderer to draw to one canvas of memory while the previous frame is being “presented” to the player – insuring if the frame takes longer to draw than the allowed time, the old frame can be maintained while rendering is resolved. Once the new frame is complete, a pointer is switched, the new frame is presented and the available frame buffer is cleared. A “depth pre-pass” is rendered without lighting or textures to give the renderer a mechanism to understand the depth at which all the opaque pixels will land. The depth pre-pass is used as both an optimization, and also as a source for other operations such as depth of field and depth fading particles. Next, some other pre-render calculations may occur, such as setting up the cascaded shadow maps and primary lights. From there the scene begins to draw. The next steps in rendering will differ, depending on whether one uses a forward or deferred renderer. For forward renderers, each object in the world will rasterize to the frame buffer, one at a time; the lighting, textures and shaders are calculated pixel by pixel, triangle by triangle, using

the GPU’s vertex shader and fragment shader operations. The vertex shader largely resolves the vertices of the model from local space through world and camera transforms, and it handles all the UV transformations. The fragment shader handles all the textures, lighting and material logic. Typically, all the static opaque models are resolved in a bucket before moving on to the animated and dynamic objects. Once all the opaque models have resolved, the transparent or emissive models are drawn. Deferred renderers work differently. They build up a series of frame buffers, each with a different contribution. The albedo, normal, specular responses, etc., of all the objects in the scene are accumulated into independent buffers; then lighting can occur. For each light in the scene, its radius compared to the depth buffer will determine an area of the frame buffer and how many pixels will be hit. Those pixels are all processed to resolve the final output color, then move on to the next light and repeat the process until complete. Once the entire frame buffer is drawn, the post-processing step can then process the image to add color timing, contrast operations, look-up tables, vignettes and other operations to tune the look of the scene for the desired feel. Lastly, the UI is drawn, and the completed results are ready to be presented to the player. Debug tools such as PIX (Performance Investigator for Xbox), PS4 Razor or RenderDoc for PC, are frame analysis tools that can be used to capture a frame and step through every draw call, get nanosecond GPU timings on every object rendered and examine CPU calls, determine how much time was spent on them and present how they were threaded across CPU cores.

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[ VES NEWS ]

VES Launches New ‘Health and Wellbeing’ Member Benefit By NAOMI GOLDMAN Life can be complicated, and the pandemic has posed numerous additional challenges to our everyday lives. This past September, the VES Board of Directors and its global Health and Wellbeing Committee introduced the VES Member Assistance Program (MAP) – a comprehensive new benefit to VES members providing valuable round-the-clock support through LifeWorks.com. “The Society is committed to the health and welfare of our members and the VFX community at large, Lisa Cooke, VES Board Chair and the VES Member Assistance Program is the latest demonstration of that investment,” said Lisa Cooke, VES Board Chair. “Our members have access to a free and confidential support network 24/7, including private one-on-one counseling services. And we’re so proud that MAP is available to every VES member in 40-plus countries worldwide – culturally appropriate and in their native language.”

Life. Family. Health. Work. Money. Whether it’s stress management, parenting and childcare, finances, legal matters or health issues, the VES Member Assistance Program provides help. In addition to personalized service, LifeWorks offers a wealth of online resources, webinars and events. “We care not only about how our members are performing as practitioners, but how they are thriving as people – mentally, emotionally, physically,” said Emma Clifton Perry, VES 1st Vice Chair and Health and Wellbeing Committee Co-Chair. “This enormously valuable benefit is the result of the Board and staff coming together to fill the gap in accessibility to support networks for many of our members. I’m immensely proud that this latest investment in our members is now a reality.” “I’m beyond excited about our newest member benefit,” said Philipp Wolf, Health and Wellbeing Committee Co-Chair. “Whatever concerns they have, our members now have experts standing by to take their call. This service is here to empower our members and give them help whenever it’s needed. The VES Member Assistance Program offers so much, and I hope our members worldwide will take advantage of this significant service.”

VES 2021 Hall of Fame Inductees Roy Field (1932–2002) was a visual effects supervisor and director of photography, highly regarded as a special effects legend. He is best known for his work on Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Superman, which earned him an Academy Special Achievement Award and BAFTA for Visual Effects.

John P. Fulton, ASC (1902–1966) was a special effects supervisor and cinematographer with a body of work including 250 films spanning nearly four decades, earning him three Academy Awards for Special Effects on Wonder Man, The Bridges at Toko-Ri and The Ten Commandments.

Phil Kellison (1918–2005) was a visual effects supervisor and designer with a 40-year career that ranged from the George Pal Puppetoons to industrial films, commercials and feature films. His specialties include stop-motion animation forced perspective, which he dubbed “Magnascope.”

Auguste Lumière (1862–1954) and Louis Lumière (1864–1948). The Lumière Brothers were manufacturers of photography equipment, best known for their Cinématographe motion picture system and the short films they produced between 1895 and 1905, which places them among the earliest filmmakers.

John Whitney, Sr. (1917–1995) was an animator, composer and inventor, widely considered a father of computer animation. He used mechanical animation techniques to create sequences for film and television title sequences and commercials, most notably his collaboration with Saul Bass on the title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

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Visual Effects Society Announces Special 2021 Honorees

TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: James Cameron Gary Demos Brooke Breton, VES Mike Chambers, VES Rita Cahill Van Ling, VES Nancy St. John, VES Gene Kozicki Richard Winn Taylor II, VES

VES celebrated a distinguished group of VFX practitioners at its festive VES Honors event this past November, held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Visionary filmmaker James Cameron and CG pioneer Gary Demos were named Honorary VES Members. This year’s venerated VES Fellows bestowed with the post-nominal letters “VES” were Brooke Breton, Mike Chambers, Van Ling and Nancy St. John. New VES Hall of Fame honorees included Roy Field, John P. Fulton, ASC, Phil Kellison, the Lumière Brothers and John Whitney, Sr. (See photos on opposite page.) Previously announced VES 2021 honorees include award-winning Visual Effects Producer Mike Chambers and venerated international business and marketing consultant Rita Cahill, who were named recipients of the 2021 VES Founders Awards. The Society also designated digital production manager and noted VFX historian Gene Kozicki, acclaimed creative and cinematic director Richard Winn Taylor II, VES, Mike Chambers and Rita Cahill with Lifetime VES memberships. Honorary Member James Cameron is an acclaimed, Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and VES award-winning filmmaker, known for his expansive vision and innovative visual effects-driven films, which have repeatedly smashed boxoffice records. A recipient of the VES Lifetime Achievement Award, Cameron received an Academy Award for Best Director for Titanic (which won 11 Oscars) and his films Aliens, Avatar, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Abyss each received Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects. Honorary Member Gary Demos is a pioneer in the development of computer-generated images and digital image processing for use in motion pictures. He is the recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scientific and Engineering Award and the Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar for lifetime technical achievement. The inventor of approximately 100 patents, Demos is a SMPTE Fellow and recipient of the SMPTE Digital Processing Medal. Fellow Brooke Breton, VES has been involved in prominent live-action films, animated films, television series and theme park projects, which have received Academy, BAFTA, Emmy, Annie and VES awards and nominations. A three-term VES Board member, Breton is a member of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch, Visual Effects Executive Council, and Science and Technology Council. Fellow Mike Chambers, VES is an award-winning freelance Visual Effects Producer and Independent VFX Consultant specializing in large-scale feature film productions. He has contributed to the visual effects on numerous Academy and BAFTA award-winning films, and is the recipient of three VES Awards for Best Visual Effects on Dunkirk, Inception and The Day After Tomorrow. A 20-year VES member, Chambers served six years as the Chair of the VES. Fellow Van Ling, VES is a renowned visual effects supervisor, graphic designer, editor and digital artist. His diverse credits range from films to theme park attractions to designing and creating THX trailers and innovative laserdisc/DVD/Blu-ray formats. In addition to his service on the VES Board and Committees, Ling is a member of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch. Fellow Nancy St. John, VES has a VFX and computer animation career that has spanned over 38 years, and VFX teams under her leadership have garnered Academy Awards for Babe and Gladiator. In addition to her service on the VES Board and Membership Committee, St. John is a member of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch and VFX Executive Committee.

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[ FINAL FRAME ]

The Forever Beacon

Blockbuster producer/director Roland Emmerich, who has helmed such VFX disaster spectacles as Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, returns with the uber-calamitous Moonfall (see cover story). The film is about a mysterious force causing the moon to be on a collision course with the earth. Emmerich was always inspired by Jules Verne while Verne was also an inspiration to pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès, who is famously known for his most acclaimed work – the 13-minute gem Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), arguably cinema’s first science fiction film. It was made in 1902 and was energized partly by stories by writers like Verne. It’s been 120 years between films, but the thread that ties them together is man’s and filmmakers’ quest to always push the envelope, especially with visual effects. That thread extends to the Visual Effects Society, celebrating its Silver Anniversary, which picked Méliès’ iconic moonface with a rocket as its logo. The VES, since its inception, has always tried to foster an ambitious community of VFX explorers. In 2020 the VES bestowed its Visionary Award to Roland Emmerich. This honor is awarded for uniquely and consistently employing the art and science of visual effects to foster imagination and ignite future discoveries by way of artistry, invention and groundbreaking work.

Moonfall image courtesy of Lionsgate and Centropolis Entertainment.

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